News Story

Michigan PTA Needs Refresher On Law Governing Charter School Admissions

Conventional public school establishment's ally gives House Education Committee bad information

The House Fiscal Agency is a non-partisan bureau that provides analyses of legislation for both Republicans and Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives.

In a recent bill analysis, the agency included this statement about charter schools: “Also, unlike charter schools, traditional public schools must accept all students, even those with physical or developmental difficulties that require additional resources.” Although the claim appeared in an “Arguments Against” section of the analysis, the agency initially did not note that the assertion was the view of a particular interest, an omission that has since been corrected.

The claim was in a memo sent to the committee by Samantha Phillips, an official with the Michigan Parent Teacher Association. The state PTA has for many years been a staunch ally of the conventional public school establishment, among other things opposing charter school expansion and supporting tax hikes.

However, the group's assertion about charter school admissions is not just false, it actually has backwards which type of public school can exclude students who want to enroll.

Public School Academies - charter schools - are public schools that must accept all students who apply if the school has space for them. Conventional public schools do not have to accept students who live outside a school district’s jurisdiction.

For example, Grosse Pointe Public Schools is one of the few regular school districts in the state that does not permit students from adjacent communities to attend under a cross-district Schools of Choice law.

In contrast, charter schools do not have their own territories, and so have no such restrictions on who can attend.

Buddy Moorehouse, spokesman for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, provided a citation for the law that requires charter schools to accept all students. It states:

"(2) A public school academy shall not charge tuition and shall not discriminate in its pupil admissions policies or practices on the basis of intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, status as a student with a disability, or any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district. However, a public school academy may limit admission to pupils who are within a particular range of age or grade level or on any other basis that would be legal if used by a school district and may give enrollment priority as provided in subsection (4)."

That "subsection (4)" exception requires a charter school with more applicants than it has space for to hold an admissions lottery. Current students moving on to the next grade are exempt from the lottery process.

Phillips didn’t 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.