News Story

School Choice Advocates Cheer Lift of Charter Public School Cap

Bill contains 'extra level of accountability' for school performance

The Michigan House of Representatives voted 58-49 Wednesday night to expand and then eliminate the cap on the number of public charter schools that can be chartered by public universities. The vote and debate was largely partisan, although five Republicans voted against the bill and one Democrat, Rep. Shanelle Jackson, D-Detroit, supported it. The Senate sent the bill to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk Thursday by a 22-16 margin.

Charter school advocates claim the passage of Senate Bill 618 marks a historic moment in the public education for Michigan.

“This vote was the most significant event in education reform since passage of Proposal A and the creation of school choice in Michigan,” said Billie Kops Wimmer, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers.

Seventy percent of charter schools have waiting lists, representing about 20,000 families

Critics of the bill claimed that it lacked quality controls and transparency requirements for charter schools. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said in a statement following the vote: “There is nothing in this bill to enhance the much needed quality and performance of charter schools.”

Supporters, however, point to language in the bill that requires authorizers to revoke the authorization of charter schools that consistent perform in the lowest 5 percent of schools statewide, if notified by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

House Education Committee Chair Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, pointed to other quality control mechanisms built into the bill. He cited a provision that charters that fail to meet their educational goals may not open additional schools.

He added that charter schools have always had an extra level of accountability compared to conventional school districts, since both the state superintendent and their public authorizer may decide to shut them down.

“And, obviously, parents decide with their feet as well,” he added, alluding to the fact that parents who choose charter schools for their children can opt to leave at any time.

Rep. McMillin also argues that the bill adds new transparency requirements for charter schools that meet or exceed those of conventional school districts.

For instance, according to the bill, charter school boards must make certain information publicly available, including quarterly financial statements, a list of teachers and administrators and their individual salaries, certificates and permits and service contracts.

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.