A dozen Democratic state senators don’t think charter public schools should be allowed unless they outperform their conventional public school counterparts. During the discussion of Senate Bill 618 that would lift a cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, submitted an amendment that would have required charter schools to demonstrate student achievement at least 20 percent higher than the conventional public schools in the district in which the charter is located.
That amendment was voted down, 26-12, with all the Republicans voting against it.
"The idea behind the amendment was to engage in a dialogue about quality with new charter schools,” Sen. Hopgood said in an email. “Our overall experience thus far with charters has been quite mediocre. We are lifting the cap to allow more charters, but not raising the bar for them. We should be crafting policy to target the ‘highest quality, highest performance’ charters for Michigan's children and we haven't been doing that."
But Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said parents, not politicians, should decide which schools are good enough for their children.
“There is no legitimate rationale for requiring certain types of public schools to outperform others on standardized tests in order to exist,” Van Beek wrote in an email.
The bill to eliminate the cap of 150 on the number of charter schools ultimately passed the Michigan Senate on a vote of 20 to 18. All Senate Democrats voted against eliminating the cap and were joined by Republicans Tom Casperson of Escanaba, Bruce Caswell of Hillsdale, Geoff Hansen of Hart, Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, Mike Kowall of White Lake and Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights.
The bill was been sent on to the House of Representatives’ Education Committee, which is chaired by Republican Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc. Rep. Scott is the target of a recall election due his support for previous votes on education reform. The recall is being bankrolled by the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest public school employee union.
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