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Published: Tuesday, 7/8/2014

Michigan school chief tightening charter oversight


LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s top education official said Monday that he will suspend the power of institutions that authorize the opening of charter schools if those groups don’t meet certain new standards.

According to a statement from Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s office, the Michigan Department of Education will establish measures of the “the transparency, academic, and financial practices of the charter schools of each authorizer.” The result of those measures will “determine which authorizers would lose their chartering capabilities,” the statement said.

Michigan spends about $1 billion a year on about 370 charter schools, which teach about 140,000 state children. Among the leading issuers of school charters are Central Michigan, Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State universities.

Monday’s announcement said that a recent series of news articles had prompted Flanagan to “think differently about whether to suspend an authorizer’s ability to open new charter schools.”

“It’s my authority in state law and I will be using it,” he said.

The Detroit Free Press has run stories questioning Michigan’s charter school oversight.

Charter school operators defend the quality of the service the schools provide.

“Charter school oversight and quality standards in Michigan are rigorous, and the state law expanding charter opportunities requires that increased academic achievement for all pupils must be the most important factor in charter renewal,” Sherry Haueter, a member of the board of the Great Lakes Charter Academy, told the newspaper in response to the series.

Some charter schools are operated by nonprofit groups, while profit-making businesses operate 61 percent of them. The Free Press report concluded that much of the spending takes place with little public accountability or transparency.

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