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Recent op-eds in The Detroit News continue to pit the wide-ranging needs of charter public school students against those of students enrolled in traditional public school districts. It is time we recognize that all children are unique and wonderful in their own way.

As a 25-year leader and supporter of charter public schools, it has been my mission to help all charter public school students achieve and succeed alongside their peers in traditional public schools. This has included serving as former Gov. John Engler’s special advisor for charter schools development, and later my work at the Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

Any attempt to separately address the needs of all of Michigan’s public school students works against providing a high-quality education that prepares all students for college and the 21st century workforce.

The School Finance Research Collaborative’s school adequacy study, released in January, determined the true cost of educating all charter and traditional public school students to meet Michigan’s academic standards. The study recognizes that children may have different needs that require different resources when taking into account learning challenges, but by no means should children receive differentiated funding based on their status of charter versus traditional public school setting. It is the most comprehensive adequacy study ever conducted in Michigan, and has provided the building blocks for a new school funding system that serves the needs of all students.

The collaborative’s study, conducted by the nation’s top two school finance research firms, was informed by nearly 300 Michigan educators from across the state. It is the first statewide study in the nation to include a special panel on charter public schools in addition to charter public school representation on all the panels. This representation marked a true opportunity to provide a platform of professional input from educators that serve all of Michigan’s public schools — both charter and traditional.

School adequacy studies have proven across the country to be a critical first step toward any reforms that have resulted in measurable improvements in student achievement. Michigan currently ranks at the bottom nationwide in student performance, and our students will continue to fall behind if we don’t take action now — action together and not splintered.

Mary Kay Shields

public schools advocate

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