Prohibitive language written into union contract that says union, district agree not to authorize or open a charter could violate state law
Charter public schools in Michigan have been blamed by many in the media and by advocates for more school spending as part of the reason conventional public schools have problems.
Now, one district in the state has taken action against the idea of school choice for students and parents, and its efforts may be breaking state law.
The Clintondale Community Schools district agreed with its teachers union to prohibit creating or authorizing charter schools within the district. In a memo of understanding that extended the union contract into 2014, it states, “No Charter Schools.” The memo was approved June 13, 2012.
School districts and unions can't stop charter schools from opening in their district, but they can agree that together they will not open or authorize one in the district. Conventional school districts in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Livonia, Suttons Bay, Eaton Rapids, Manistee, Baldwin, Center Line, Port Huron and Traverse City have all authorized charter schools to operate within their districts. Detroit Public Schools authorizes 12 charter schools.
The Public Employment Relations Act 336 says it against state law to negotiate with unions about "the decision of whether or not to act as an authorizing body to grant a contract to organize and operate 1 or more public school academies under the revised school code, 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.1 to 380.1852."
Clintondale Superintendent George Sassin, School Board President Jason Davidson, School Board Vice President Mark Titus and Clintondale Education Association Union President Kenneth Austin did not return requests for comment.
"It's unfortunate that any school district would want to limit or eliminate the opportunities they might want to offer their students in the future," said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. "Other local school districts in Michigan have chartered schools, and there have been positive results in terms of student achievement. Every student in Michigan deserves a quality education in a quality school, so we should focus on what's best for the kids, and not what's best for the adults. That's not happening in this case."
Clintondale is located in Macomb County and had 3,650 students in 2012-13.
"This absolutely should not be in Clintondale's contract," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "And the sad thing is, both the union and the district agreed to it."
(Editor's note: This story has been edited since its original posting. More information about the district and union agreement has been added.)