News Story

Charter School Growth in Michigan is Not the 'Wild, Wild West'

There are 48 more charter schools since cap was lifted in 2011

When in 2011 the Legislature voted to repeal a cap on charter public schools, Democrats warned that “allowing an unlimited number” of “for-profit” charter schools would put students at risk.

Four years later, a new report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools finds that while Michigan has the fifth most charter school students in the country at 159,000, growth in the number of schools has been steady. California leads the nation with 547,800 charter school students. Nationwide, there are an estimated 2.89 million students enrolled in charter schools.

The report states that Michigan added 10 new charter schools in 2014, which was 10th most in the country. Buddy Moorehouse, vice president of communications for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said more updated information shows Michigan had a net gain of six charter schools in 2014.

“That growth has been very controlled and responsible,” he said.

The most common way charter schools are authorized is by state universities. In the fall of 2011, there were 255 charter schools in Michigan. There were 303 charter schools as of the fall of 2014.

“When the cap was lifted in 2011, there were people who said it was going to be the 'Wild, Wild West,'” Moorehouse said. “And we were going to see a charter school opening on every corner. That has not happened.”

In 2011, former state Rep. Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek, said uncapping the charter schools was “a complete assault on our public school system in Michigan.”

“Senate Bill 618 unfortunately benefits for-profit charter schools at the expense of our public schools and their students,” she said four years ago. “Removing the cap will allow an unlimited number of for-profit schools to open in whatever community they choose and put students at risk.”

Gary Naeyaert, of the Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for school choice, said the growth of charter schools in Michigan was fantastic news for parents and families.

“There are 1.5 million kids in Michigan and not a single one of them has ever been assigned to a charter school,” Naeyaert said. “People want options.”

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.