News Story

'Wild West' Of Charter School Expansion Never Happened

Unionized public school interests said a reform passed in 2011 would produce chaos

When an artificial cap on the number of public charter schools in Michigan was lifted in 2011, opponents of the almost exclusively non-union public schools said it would create a Wild West of unrestricted expansion.

In 2017, John Austin, the former Democratic chairman of the state school board, wrote an op-ed declaring, “When the charter cap was blown apart by [Betsy] DeVos operators six years ago, we saw charters opening willy-nilly with no rhyme or reason.” In 2012 he used the "wild west" term to characterize the outcome he expected from the recently enacted charter expansion law.

Since 2013, however, there has been a net decline in the number of charter schools in the state — from 298 in the 2013-14 school year to 297 currently.

When the cap was in place in 2011, Michigan had 247 charter schools. In the 2011-12 school year, it had 256, a number that then rose to 298 in 2013-14.

The number of charter schools has leveled off since then, however.

Nine new charter schools are opening in the 2018-19 school year while seven others are closing, according to Buddy Moorehouse, spokesman for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. The net increase of just two charters from the previous year brings the new total to 297.