Detroit school board: Charter schools should operate with elected boards
The Detroit school board is asking state education officials to support letting only institutions with elected boards to authorize charter schools in Michigan.
The group unanimously approved a resolution during a meeting Tuesday night that calls for the state to “limit the authorization of public school academies to institutions with independently elected boards of regents, trustees, governors or members.”
The document noted that the Detroit Public Schools Community District is among the state’s 10 active charter school authorizers and the only one governed by an elected board. Meanwhile, “the Non-Elected Charter Authorizers make decisions that impact local communities without accountability to voters,” the resolution says. “…Because public dollars are used to support charter schools — voters should have a vote in how such funds are spent and when charter schools are opened/closed.”
Departing board member LaMar Lemmons introduced the resolution at a board meeting this month after researching charter schools in the state.
“To provide transparency and equity among all Michigan schools, Mr. Lemmons believes citizens should have representatives of the people who make decisions that impact their local charter schools,” the district said in a statement. “To provide a public education for Michigan families without a voice from the community and the stakeholders is contrary to our democracy. ”
The resolution is expected to be presented to the State Board of Education before Jan. 1, Lemmons said during the meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.
“It’s imperative because without accountability, it leads to calamitous situations," he said.
Michigan Department of Education officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Lemmons said incoming state Sen. Betty Jean Alexander also planned to pursue a bill once in office early next year that would amend the state school code to allow only groups with elected boards to authorize charters.
She could not be reached Tuesday night.
The board's decision comes as parents, activists and officials have criticized the state’s charter school closure rate.
Some 210 charter schools have closed in Michigan since 1995, according to data from the Center for Educational Performance and Information, the state agency responsible for reporting education data in Michigan. The figure included 75 in Detroit.
The National Center for Educational Statistics estimates Michigan has a charter school closure rate of 31 percent, the same as the national rate.
Charter schools close for various reasons, including financial problems due to low enrollment and poor academic performance. Charter schools can be closed by the state, authorizer or its own school board.
The charter school law was strengthened in 2009 to include an automatic-closure provision for poor-performing schools. Two years later, the Legislature also passed a law that lifted the cap on the number of university-authorized charter schools.