In a continuing series of articles about charter schools in Michigan the Detroit Free Press reports that the state’s weak charter legislation enables unscrupulous charter organizations to engage in self-dealing and conflicts of interest.
The article yesterday said that Michigan’s nearly 300 charter schools collect about $1 billion and have almost no accountability. The Michigan charters do no outperform the public schools.
The story about the weak law begins like this:
In September 2005, Emma Street Holdings bought property on Sibley Road in Huron Township for $375,000. Six days later, Emma Street sold the parcel to Summit Academy North, a charter school, for $425,000.
Who made the quick $50,000 at the school’s expense? The founders of Emma Street, two men with close ties to the school — one was president of Summit’s management company, the other was married to Summit’s top administrator.
The deal is emblematic of how friends, relatives and insiders can find ways to cash in on the nearly $1 billion a year state taxpayers spend on Michigan’s charter schools.
The law does not bar insider deals:
Boards are free to give contracts to friends and relatives of the school’s administrators and founders. Privately owned management companies that run charter schools don’t have to disclose whom they’ve hired as employees or vendors, so they are free to hire board members’ friends. School founders are not prohibited from running both a school and its management company.
The new law also does not bar a transaction such as the Summit land deal.
The article provides many examples of conflicts of interest that are legal in Michigan.