News Story

Recall Retaliation? Senate Pushes Charter School Cap Repeal & 'Union-Unfriendly' Reforms

Analyst: By bankrolling recalls, MEA union bosses 'may have brought a knife to a gunfight'

Michigan would no longer limit the number of charter public schools authorized by state universities, and charter schools authorized by regular school districts would no longer be subject to a union collective bargaining mandate, if a seven-bill package introduced by Republicans in the state Senate yesterday becomes law.

These are just two of the reforms proposed by the “Parent Empowerment Education Reform” package. Among others, the bills would authorize a “parent trigger,” in which a majority of parents or teachers at a particular public school could petition to convert the school to a charter, according to a GOP press release.

Currently, state universities are the largest authorizers of charter schools in Michigan, but the number they can authorize is capped at 150 schools.

Two-thirds of Michigan’s charter schools have waiting lists, said Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and sponsor of the lead bill in the reform package.

“Parents across Michigan are clamoring for more choices,” said Pavlov in the release.  “Governor Snyder challenged the Legislature to expand the schools of choice program, empower parents and ensure that every student has access to a quality education.  This package is a major step toward meeting those goals and breaking down the barriers standing between our kids and their future.”

Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, notes that the package also would allow regular school districts to contract-out the employment of teachers. Those teachers would still have to meet the same qualifications as regular teachers, he said.

McHugh speculated that the far-reaching reforms may be blow-back for the MEA teachers union’s bankrolling of recall campaigns against a number of Republican lawmakers, who earlier this year voted to trim union powers and privileges.

“It looks like the Senate GOP caucus — which until now has been a firewall against deeper school reforms favored by the House — has decided to come after the recall-happy MEA,” McHugh said in an email. “Assuming the bills don’t get substantially watered down, the union may discover that it’s brought a knife to a gun fight,” he said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.