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UNLIMITED GROWTH: State Sees "Indefinite Increases" of Charter Schools

October 22, 2015       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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The Michigan Department of Education, while admitting "limited capacity to properly provide quality oversight," forsees the number of charter schools in Michigan will "increase indefinitely."

The future of K-12 education in Michigan is coming into focus but the view is not entirely clear.

The Michigan Department of Education, while admitting "limited capacity to properly provide quality oversight," forsees the number of charter schools in Michigan will "increase indefinitely."

It's hard to disagree with the statement in MDE's strategic plan that "it is incumbent upon MDE to find alternative mechanisms to support PSAs (public school academies), especially those with records of under-performance."

"The recent use of chartering as a financial strategy rather than an educational one, has further exacerbated the lack of support," the state's plan says.

In recent years global corporations have taken a substantial share of Michigan's educational budget mainly through so-called "cyber schools." Firms like Pearson, a huge British company that is a world leader in electronic delivery of educational curricula, and K-12 Inc., founded by former Reagan Administration education secretary William Bennett, are leaders in the online arena.

Republicans in the State Legislature earlier this year announced an accreditation program for Michigan's 40 charter school authorizers. Legislation introduced by Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, to limit the number of charter schools was defeated. Roberts has advocated greater accountability by charter schools.

"Absent any legislative changes to the contrary, the number of PSAs and subordinate schools will increase indefinitely, especially as traditional public school districts continue, with increasing frequency, to issue charter contracts for alternative education options, including cyber schools, alternative education and strict discipline academies," the strategic plan states.

Lisa Key, of Choice Schools Associates, speaking at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies fall conference Oct. 20-21 in Troy, said: "every student can be successful no matter what their circumstance, in addition to programming that addresses the need of the whole student including: academic, social-emotional, and transition needs."

Other observations in the state plan:

*This increase in the number of district-level PSAs will continue to challenge support organizations as static resources are stretched.

*Most of new local educational agency (LEA) charter authorizers "have demonstrated limited capacity to properly provide quality oversight to PSAs."

*Enrollment in PSAs will increase by approximately 5,000 students every year through 2019.

*The number of PSAs will increase by 20 each year through 2019, totaling nearly 400 by the end of 2019.

*Virtual/Cyber/Online learning options will continue to expand.

* Teacher preparation and certification requirements will continue to increase in rigor.

* Teacher/Leader turnover will continue to be an issue in urban PSAs.

* Teacher/Leader capacity will continue to be an issue in urban PSAs.

* The issuance of charters to former traditional public schools will expand as a financial strategy, rather than an educational one.

* Facility availability for PSAs will continue to be a challenge.

* Without some serious innovations, some educational markets will become saturated.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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