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Parents Speak Out on Effort to Halt School Choice

Legislators pushing charter school moratorium ignore public 'Schools of Choice' in areas they represent

When several state lawmakers spoke Sept. 18th in support of a moratorium on new charter public schools, they seemed to be overlooking what is going on in their districts.

Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, described choice as a myth.

“Does that parent have the means to actually transport that child to another school, if they even have a working, functional car? Is there a bus system that exists? There are so many areas in which the choice is really Hobson’s choice. It’s a choice of theory but it really doesn’t exist,” Rep. Lipton said.

Rep. Cogen Lipton and Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, are introducing legislation that would prevent the opening of new charter public schools until more laws are in place on charter school governance, transparency and accountability. Standing with them in support at a press conference were Reps. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and Charles Brunner, D-Bay City, All four of them have successful charter public schools in their districts and active school choice programs through which parents can chose to send their child to a conventional school outside their assigned district.

A 2013 Mackinac Center study found that nearly as many students attend a district other than the one to which they’ve been assigned under Michigan’s Schools-of-Choice law as do attend a charter public school.

Rep. Roberts represents the district encompassing Lakeview Public Schools. This year, 45 percent of the district’s 4,010 students are non-residents. Often, non-resident students trade the convenience of a nearby school because they feel they can get a better education miles away.

Irving Bailey was looking for a conventional school alternative for his daughter but was lucky to find one less than a mile from his Detroit home in a charter public school, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Bailey’s daughter is a high school senior now looking forward to studying engineering and communications in college.

“It’s been a great opportunity for her. She’s done internships. I like the small classroom settings and the hours, 8:30 to 4. She’s doing well maintaining a 3.5 to 3.8 grade point average,” he said.

Bailey said the conventional schools have improved, but he removed his daughter four years ago because of poor communication, lack of homework and assignments, teacher absences and large classes. He doesn’t see a need to for a charter public school moratorium.

“I can get any information I need from the school. I don’t think they’re hiding anything. I have not seen any misuse of money. In fact, they’ve expanded the building,” he said.

Also commenting on the moratorium is the board president of Hinoki International, a charter academy that could be negatively affected. Hinoki is seeking a new authorizer after its recent authorizer, the Livonia Public Schools, pulled the school’s lease just before the 2013-2014 school year ended and announced it was starting a competing program. Hinoki was unable to find a facility on the short notice, losing its students and eventually its charter authorization.

“While Michigan's laws governing schools may need improvement, those changes can certainly be hammered out without halting the ongoing process of development of innovative new schools to serve Michigan students. Does the government shut down auto factories while it decides how to improve car safety?” Anne Hoogart writes in a letter she has mailed to legislators who were at the moratorium announcement.

Charter school authorizers have proposed their own set of standards and Rep. Roberts says legislators would be open to that, but also compared it to “having the fox watch the hen house.”


See also:

Democrats Call for Moratorium on New Charter Schools

CapCon Coverage of School Choice

From Detroit to the Ivy League: One Students Journey

Michigan Lifts Charter School Cap

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.