News Story

Civil Rights Commission: Cut Charter Schools That Serve Mostly Poor, Minority Students

Former Democratic leader: Commission ‘tells half the students in Detroit and Flint they're only worth three-quarters of a person’

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has released a report that mirrors demands from conventional public school interests that taxpayers give their schools more money and and less money to charter schools. The eight-member panel wants more money for what it calls “impoverished” school districts that serve a higher percentage of poor and minority students — and less for charter schools.

In its Sept. 30 report, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission recommended that when a family chooses to send its child to a charter school within the geographic territory of the conventional school district where it lives, that school should get just 75% of the usual state aid. The commission calls for the remaining 25% to go to the conventional district in which the student lives.

That would cut funding to public school institutions that have a higher percentage of poor and minority students in their enrollment than Michigan’s conventional school districts.

There were 147,000 children enrolled in Michigan charter schools in the 2019-20 school year. And 76% of these students are categorized as “economically disadvantaged,” and 68% as “non-white.”

By comparison, the state’s conventional school districts enrolled 1.29 million students, 48% of whom met the definition of “economically disadvantaged,” and 30% were categorized as “non-white.”

The irony of a government civil rights commission looking to cut funding for public schools that serve a higher percentage of poor and minority students was not lost on one Democratic politician.

Buzz Thomas is a former legislator who spent 14 years in the state House and Senate. He was also a co-chair of the 2008 Michigan campaign for President Barack Obama. In a letter he wrote to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission members, he was openly critical of it wanting to cut charter school funding.

“So, when you talk about devaluing a student simply because he or she attends a charter school, you’re talking about primarily Black and Brown students,” Thomas wrote. “You’re talking about half the children in Detroit and Flint. It boggles the mind that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission just adopted a report that tells half the students in Detroit and Flint that they’re only worth three-quarters of a person.”

Stacie Clayton, chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission as well as the director of administration and special projects for the Detroit City Council, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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.