Casandra E. Ulbrich, president of the Michigan State Board of Education, responded to an editorial in the Detroit News complaining that the State Board rejected $47 million for new charter schools. She explains why the Board declined to spend the money awarded to the state by the federal Charter Schools Program. It doesn’t need new schools or new charters. About 80% of the charters operating in the state are “for-profit.” Furthermore, as Michigan has invested in charters, its test scores have dropped dramatically.

She writes:

This month, the State Board of Education was presented with grant criteria that ultimately could spend $47 million in taxpayer money on new and expanding charter schools. As elected board members, we raised legitimate questions about the need and the nature of these expenditures, following the release of a national research report indicating that over $1 billion of similar grant funds have been awarded to entities that either never opened a school, or opened and then closed.

In the 2002-03 school year, Michigan educated 1,713,165 public K-12 students. Last year, that number fell to 1,507,772. That’s a drop of over 200,000 students. The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that public school enrollment will continue to decline by another five percent by 2025.

Despite these declines, Michigan’s public education system continues to expand. Since 2008, 226 charter schools have opened in Michigan (38 have closed). For every new school, there are additional costs to the system, including administration and, as often is the case with Michigan charters, profit.

All this new school creation has not led to increased achievement for students. In fact, Michigan has seen the opposite. According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2003 Michigan fourth-grade students were ranked 28th in the nation for reading scores. Last year, we ranked 35th, and in fourth-grade math, 38th….

The second major concern we expressed relates to the results of the last round of federal charter school grants. From 2010-15, 186 Michigan entities were approved for funding under this grant program. Of those, 67 received funding but never opened a charter school….

The editorial also indicates that charter schools “dominate” the list of Michigan’s highest performing high schools. Based on the state’s index system — approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as Michigan’s school accountability system — this simply is not true. Only three charter schools that offer high school grades rank in the Top 100 of Michigan’s federally-approved Index system.

The lesson from Michigan: Choice produces profits, not better education.

Michigan has been Betsy DeVos’s petri dish to demonstrate her theories about school choice. It undermines public schools without producing better results by any metric. But it does enrich investors.