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Michigan loses $45 million federal grant for charter schools

Oct 30, 2015

Because the state lacks oversight of charter school authorizers, the U.S. Department of Education rejected Michigan's request for $45 million to boost and expand charter schools. The state was also cited for the poor academic performance of charters, a low score on its plan to improve the achievement of disadvantaged charter students, and its failure to make what's working in charter schools available to all schools statewide.

Applications for the grant are reviewed by outside experts who award points in each of 11 criteria. Michigan only received 17 out of a possible 45 points for oversight and 21 out of 45 points for high-quality monitoring of authorizers. Michigan has received this federal grant six times--the last time in 2010 for $44 million. 

Michigan's charter school law allows school districts, community colleges, and universities to authorize charter schools. Right now, any oversight initiatives are voluntary; the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has only limited oversight of them.

It was in July 2014 when the Detroit Free Press brought the issue of the lack of charter school accountability and transparency to light with its series, "State of Charter Schools." The report found that Michigan spends $1 billion on charters with little or no oversight. Last year, (MDE) put 11 charter school authorizers on notice that they were at risk of suspension because they weren't providing oversight; currently, four remain on the list.

Following that Free Press report, Gov. Snyder called for transparency for all schools, not just charter schools. Last year, House Democrats introduced legislation to stop the authorization of new charter schools until transparency and accountability reforms were put in place.