Archives for category: Michigan

As we learned from the Detroit Free Press series on the state’s charter industry, it collects $1 billion from taxpayers without producing better results than public schools for the state’s neediest children.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan acted to warn the authorizers of the state’s lowest performing charters that he was warning them they were “At Risk of Suspension.” This warning applied to 11 of the state’s 40 authorizers.

He said:

““We want all public schools to provide a quality education for Michigan’s kids,” Flanagan said. “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.”

“The authorizers on the At Risk of Suspension list are being given until October 22 to remediate those deficiencies before Flanagan makes his final determination in November to suspend the authorizer’s chartering ability.

“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. They just won’t be able to open any new charters until their deficiencies are fixed and the academic outcomes of their schools are improved.”

So he won’t close down their failing schools, he just won’t let them open new ones.

Here are the authorizers:

“The charter school authorizers At Risk of Suspension are:

Detroit Public Schools
Eastern Michigan University
Education Achievement Authority
Ferris State University
Grand Valley State University
Highland Park Schools
Kellogg Community College
Lake Superior State University
Macomb Intermediate School District
Muskegon Heights Public Schools
Northern Michigan University

“Each of the named authorizer’s charter school portfolio; that is, all of its charters schools considered as a whole, is in the Bottom 10 percent of the state’s academic Top to Bottom list. They, likewise, have deficiencies in their contract and transparency requirements.”

The Michigan State Board of Education passed a resolution calling for reform of the state’s charter law. The vote was along party lines; the state board is dominated by Democrats but the legislature is not.

The resolution was passed following a series in the Detroit Free Press showing that the state spends nearly $1 billion each year on charters, which are neither transparent nor accountable.

“Among the recommendations: The board wants the Legislature to require private management companies that run charter schools to post online the same kind of information that traditional public schools must post, bar management companies from also being a charter school’s landlord, require lease agreements to reflect fair market values, set clear standards for who can open charters and hold charter authorizers accountable for the academic performance of their schools.

“The resolution, which was rejected by the two lone Republican members of the eight-member elected board, came after more than an hour of debate. Eileen Weiser, R-Ann Arbor, argued the board should delay voting because she believes some of the recommendations are already covered in state law.

“And then we can have a conversation that’s different than what we’re having now,” Weiser said.

“She and Richard Zeile, R-Dearborn, developed an alternate report…..

“The “State of Charter Schools” series showed that Michigan charters receive nearly $1 billion per year in taxpayer money from the state, often with little accountability, transparency or academic achievement. No state superintendent has ever suspended an authorizer since the charter law was adopted in the mid-1990s.”

Lori Higgins reported in the Detroit Free Press on Monday that the State Board of Education was debating new rules to make charter schools more transparent and accountable. Most charters in the state operate for profit and don’t believe in opening up their operations to prying eyes. We will see how this turns out.

She wrote:

“The State Board of Education on Tuesday is set to debate a proposal to call on the Legislature to adopt comprehensive changes to the state’s charter school law that addresses transparency, accountability and educational quality.

Among the recommendations:

■ Require management companies that run charter schools to make public the same information traditional public schools must make public — including salaries, benefits and contracts.

■ Bar a company from serving as both a charter school’s management company and landlord

■ Require an open bidding process for contracted services.

■ Prohibit authorizers from unilaterally removing charter board members.

■ Reinstitute a “cap” that allows high-performing charter schools and operators to replicate and expand, while precluding poor-performing charters from replicating and expanding.

■ Hold authorizers accountable for the academic performance of their charters.

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo won the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 8th House District. The Network for Public Education endorsed her because of her strong stand against over-testing and privatization. She is a former middle school teacher. Gay-Dagnogo also supports Congressional Hearings on the cost and misuse of testing.

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo’s victory is a big win for students and public education in Michigan. Her victory sends a strong message to candidates nationwide that siding with the over-testing zealots isn’t just bad policy, it’s bad politics. Seat by seat, in legislatures, in the gubernatorial races, in Congress, we will fight to elect friends of public education, who defend children and sound education.

Never forget: no matter how much money the privatizers spend, we are many, and they are few. A victory for public education is a victory for democracy.

Congratulations, Sherry!

Allie Gross arrived to teach in Detroit as a Teach for America recruit. Her three years in a charter school opened her eyes. She saw classrooms without supplies, children promoted who were not ready and did not get the intervention they needed, she saw feckless leadership promoted to larger roles. And she saw the growth of an industry. In this article, she describes what she learned about “the charter school profiteers.”

Here is a sample of a fascinating and disturbing portrait of what is happening in Detroit:

“In charter-heavy Detroit, permissive regulations have created an environment ripe for mismanagement.

“According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Detroit ranks number two nationally for charter enrollment. The city is right behind New Orleans, with over half of its school-aged students attending a charter school in the 2012-2013 school year. That number will no doubt rise now that Michigan has lifted its cap on charter schools. Even more pernicious, the majority of them are run by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs). According to a report by the National Education Policy Center, Michigan has the highest proportion of for-profit EMOS running their charter schools — 79 percent of the total.

“Privatization and limited oversight have conspired to produce a new figure: the education entrepreneur. In the chaos of the Detroit school system, education entrepreneurs see an opportunity for experimentation, innovation, and venture capital. And the decentralized nature of charter schools works to their advantage. With little coherence across schools, the issue of serial education entrepreneurs emerges. Those with limited track records of success are able to wedge their ways into school after school, with nobody checking up on past performance.”

The Network for Public Education endorses Sherry Gay-Dagnogo

The Network for Public Education is proud to endorse Sherry Gay-Dagnogo
for Michigan State Representative in House Distrtct 8.

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo was a middle school science teacher for 7 years. She has worked in city government and as a community organizer.

Here’s what Gay-Dagnogo has to say on testing:

“Our children are over tested in America. We are not allowing our children to learn through exploration and discovery. Rigid test requirements limits authentic learning and causes competition, cheating, and other compromising behavior by adults.”

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is opposed to using merit pay tied to student test scores.

Merit pay “unjustly penalizes teachers within districts with student’s that have high rates of absence, transient population, and students with learning challenges that have not been properly supported and addressed by their individualized academic plans.”

Gay-Dagnogo wants Congress to hold Hearings on Testing

“I wholeheartedly support Congressional Hearings on the adverse impact of testing, the irreparable harm to children and the culture of cheating it fosters.”

Sherry is a first generation high school and college graduate. As a teacher, she advocated for increased parent involvement. Her son is a graduate of DPS. Endorsements include Mayor Mike Dugan and the Michigan Education Association. She says, “”Providing all children a great education has become increasingly difficult with a national agenda which seeks to privatize education for profit. Education has become very politicized and decisions are made by people who lack the insight needed to truly advance academic achievement which really places students first.”

Sherry understands that Michigan schools need to improve. Her proposals to protect and improve public education are based on proven strategies–

Make greater investments in early childhood;

Empower and properly train and support great teachers;

Increase parent engagement;

Class size reduction.

Two things you can do to support Sherry Gay-Dagnogo:

Today, donate “$8 for HD8″ at

Tuesday, Vote for Sherry Gay-Dagnogo

The Network for Public Education joins parents and teachers and community leaders throughout LD 8 who know Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is the best candidate for the job. Please support Sherry on Tuesday!

The Network For Public Education | P.O. Box 44200 | Tucson | AZ | 85733

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

The Detroit Free Press published a series of deeply researched articles about the charter schools in the state, most of which operate for profit. The state spends $1 billion on charters but does not hold them accountable for financial practices or academic outcomes. Charter schools do NOT get better results educating students in poverty.

Will legislators or the governor care? Not as long as the charter lobby keeps sending in those campaign contributions.

Here is the summary of the series: (Open the article for many links and videos)

A yearlong Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools found wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst. Among the findings:

Charter schools spend $1 billion per year in state taxpayer money, often with little transparency.

Some charter schools are innovative and have excellent academic outcomes — but those that don’t are allowed to stay open year after year.

A majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in Michigan have been open 10 years or more.

Charter schools as a whole fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty.

Michigan has substantially more for-profit companies running schools than any other state.

Some charter school board members were forced out after demanding financial details from management companies.

State law does not prevent insider dealing and self-enrichment by those who operate schools.

This article tells the story of Mary T. Wood, a woman in Michigan who has devoted nine years to tracking the spending and management of the state’s charter schools.

She is not a public official. No one pays her. She took on this mission when she enrolled her daughter in a charter school in 1999, which did not have approval of its building so spent the first month doing field trips and other outdoor activities. She began to wonder about the lack of oversight or supervision by the state. And she became a watchdog.

“For nearly a decade, the college-educated, stay-at-home, 54-year-old Warren mother of five has made it her life’s work to be a one-woman force of accountability for the state’s 230 charter schools, or “public school academies” as they’re officially called.

“And she’s forcing others to take note.

“The state board itself has taken a greater interest, really an interest, in looking at the details of charter school authorization and proliferation,” says Elizabeth Bauer, a member of the state board of education, who says she admires Wood. “She has definitely clarified those kinds of arrangements and brought them into a focus so people actually pay attention.”

“Michigan’s first 41 charter schools opened in 1995, and this fall there will be 232. About 6 percent of Michigan students attend a public school academy, which ranks Michigan fourth among states for the rate of charter school enrollment, according to the Michigan Department of Education.
Last year, enrollment topped 100,000, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies announced, with this year’s enrollment projected to grow.

“Michigan legislators this fall are expected to debate allowing a greater number of charters in Detroit as they refine laws related to schools.

“Test results are mixed, depending on varying interpretations of test scores. On the fall 2006 English and math MEAP for grades third through eighth, charter school students performed below the overall state average but better than the public school districts in which they were located.
According to state data, on the spring ACT this year, the average composite score for students at the 53 charter high schools throughout the state that reported them was 15.5, lower than the state average of 18.8 and a little higher than Detroit Public Schools’ average of 15.3. Just three of the 53 charter high schools outperformed Detroit’s top two high schools.

“But academic performance aside, Wood’s biggest concern about charter schools, in a nutshell, is that there is not enough oversight of the public money spent on these schools; there’s a general lack of accountability throughout the system.

“Unfortunately, this issue is politically based, and people are positioned in key places to permit improprieties to happen on a regular basis because I am certain that they believe nobody would know the difference,” she says.”

Nearly 20 years of experience with charter schools, which–according to the Detroit Free Press–collect $1 billion in public revenues, and the state still does not supervise them. Any attempt to do so is quickly stymied by lobbyists an campaign contributions to key legislators.

The press in Michigan is waking up to the fact that charter schools do not get better results than public schools (and many get worse results), and lack of supervision and regulation clears the way for fraud and corruption.

The Lansing State Journal reportson the failed promise of charter schools, which soak up $1 billion a year from taxpayers.

“Two decades into Michigan’s charter school experience, it’s clear that some schools excel academically, others don’t — and charters have not found the key to educating children in poverty.

“In other words, their results are similar in many ways to the traditional public schools they hoped to outperform.

“Of the charter schools ranked by the state during the 2012-13 school year, 38% fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all state public schools performed better, according to a Free Press review of data published by the state. This includes charters operated by for-profit and nonprofit companies, as well as self-managed schools. That compares with 23% of traditional schools below the 25th percentile.

“And, reflecting Michigan’s loose oversight of charter schools, a majority of the lowest-performing charters have been around for 10 years or more — despite research that shows the success of a charter school can be determined in the first three years of existence.”


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