At-risk charter authorizers to retain status for now

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Lansing — State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced Friday that 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers — put on notice in August that they could lose their ability to charter additional schools — will retain their status for now.

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.

“The Governor said he will announce in January some education reforms for both traditional and charter schools,” Flanagan said in a statement. “I’d like to see what he proposes before moving forward with my authority. I don’t want to affect any bold reforms he may announce by taking my own action now.”

The State Board of Education recently adopted its recommendations for change that included a call for a community-driven “certificate of need” process to open new charter schools. The recommendations also call for transparency, clear accountability, and quality control for all schools, as well as any education management companies.

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

State law gives the state superintendent authority to suspend a charter school authorizer for not engaging in appropriate continuing oversight of one or more charter schools operating under a contract with them.

“Most authorizers have done a good job taking care of many of their identified deficiencies,” Flanagan said. “There still are issues that need to be addressed, and we’ve been in a process of working together toward a system that gets every student in Michigan achieving at a high level.”

In August, Flanagan placed the 11 authorizers under the at-risk status, giving them until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies. He also directed the Michigan Department of Education to meet with authorizers on including an additional factor that takes into account the academic improvement of charter schools in their portfolios.

The department has met three times with authorizers since the August announcement and used those meetings to help frame a new academic improvement measurement.

Flanagan said he strongly supports the accreditation system the authorizers have been developing for themselves. He urged the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, which represents 10 of the 40 charter school authorizers, to work with the other authorizers on reaching consensus with an accreditation system that includes an academic achievement component.