FARMINGTON HILLS — Eighty-two people attended a viewing of the film “Backpack Full of Cash” followed by a panel discussion hosted by state Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) Monday night. The event highlighted the growth of the for-profit charter school movement in the U.S., as well as proposed reform measures that would bring accountability and transparency to charter school authorizers and the education management organizations (EMOs) that oversee day-to-day operations at most for-profit charter schools in Michigan. Special guests and discussion panelists included state Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township); Michigan State Board of Education Co-President Casandra Ulbrich, Ph.D.; American Federation of Teachers K-12 policy analyst Nate Walker; and charter school parent and 482Forward representative Star Roland.

“For parents, nothing is more important than making sure their kids get a great start in life, and that means making sure they get the best education possible. That’s why parents are so passionate about their education decisions,” Rep. Greig said. “Whatever school they decide is right for their children, parents should be assured that the school is operating in the best interest of its students, rather than in the interest of its own bank account. That’s why we need reform — to make sure that taxpayer dollars are going to benefit our kids, not corporate CEOs.”

The reforms discussed during the event are part of the School FACT Act, which was unveiled last month. They include proposals that would require EMOs to make annual audited financial statements and have charter schools post them to their websites, strengthen the obligation of a charter school authorizer to provide oversight, and prevent conflicts of interest between EMOs and groups or individuals requesting the establishment of a charter school, among other measures.

“It was encouraging to see so many people turn out Monday night despite the bad weather,” Rep. Greig said. “That underscores just how important public education is, both to parents and to taxpayers in general. People came prepared with great questions, and I like to think that what ensued was just the start of a conversation that will continue. I urge people to talk with me about their ideas and concerns about education, so that we can continue to make Michigan an education leader once again.”