August 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Michigan threatens to suspend 11 charter school authorizers

Lansing — State school Superintendent Mike Flanagan warned Monday that 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers could lose their ability to charter additional schools.

The authorizers named as being “at risk of suspension” include several of Metro Detroit’s largest educational institutions — Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority and Eastern Michigan University.

Flanagan said Monday the authorizers fall short in providing effective oversight of their charter schools, which rank in the bottom 10 percent academically.

“I am using the authority provided me in state law to push for greater quality, transparency and accountability for those who aren’t measuring up as charter authorizers,” he said in a statement.

Charter school advocates fired back at Flanagan.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies, an advocacy group for charter schools, fired back at Flanagan in a statement from its president, Dan Quisenberry.

“The report released today by the Superintendent is not based in state law,” Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said in a statement. “In fact, it defies it. It is not supported through department rules. It is a finger in the eye of the Legislature and the Governor who wrote and signed one of the nation’s toughest charter school laws in 2012.”

Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, accused Flanagan of “conducting public policy by press release.”

“He has failed to provide the authorizers or the public with the specific criteria data used to rate the authorizers in his new secret rating system,” he said.

Authorizers at risk of suspension have until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies, and Flanagan will decide in November whether to suspend them.

“If an authorizer were to be suspended, it would not be a death sentence, and we’re not closing down their existing charter schools,” Flanagan said. “They wouldn’t be out of business.”

Other authorizers at risk are the Macomb Intermediate School District, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights school districts, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan universities and Kellogg Community College.

In a statement, interim EAA Chancellor Veronica Conforme said the state-run district will work to address the state’s concerns. She also noted that the EAA operates schools considered to be among the lowest-performing in the state.

“The EAA will be fully cooperative and transparent as it works with the Michigan Department of Education to ensure that EAA charters are making progress toward academic gains,” Conforme said. “Because the EAA works with schools that are struggling most, previous academic performance of schools will automatically put the EAA on MDE’s ‘risk for suspension’ list.”

Judith Pritchett, chief academic officer for the Macomb ISD, said the district has authorized the Arts Academy in the Woods high school for more than a decade. She said the school’s 2011 graduation rate was 85 percent, and its ACT composite score (18.8) is near the state average.

“We are puzzled at this time as to why this school has been identified as the Arts Academy has never received any notification from MDE related to Priority or Focus status,” Pritchett said. “We were notified just 10 minutes prior to the press release and have not seen any data associated with this designation.”

slewis@detroitnews.com
Associated Press contributed.