A Guest Editorial Viewpoint in the Detroit Free Press
August 28, 2014 – In the debate over charter public schools and how to improve education, (a recent Free Press editorial in particular, “Lawmakers must act on state plan to reform charter school law”), we must remember that every decision impacting public education should be based on what is best for students.
Our public education system is failing far too many children when only two-thirds of students grades 3-8 are proficient in reading, and not even half are proficient in math, according to 2013 MEAP results. Less than 20% of our high school graduates are college or career ready, based on ACT benchmarks. And if 38% of charters in the bottom quarter of state schools, according to 2012 state rankings, is considered failure, than what are we to say when 85% of the traditional public schools in Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Grand Rapids, based on 2011 rankings, were also in the bottom quarter?
Unfortunately, many of the loudest voices in this debate aren’t looking for charter schools to get better; they’re looking for charters to disappear. If Superintendent Michael Flanagan succeeds in suspending 40% of charter authorizers and the Legislature passes a Democratic bill to eliminate nearly all new charter public schools and reduce existing charter schools by 50%, it will dramatically reduce education options for at-risk children.
We believe improvements can be made in the charter sector. Specifically, the Legislature should eliminate the ability of a poor-performing charter school to “shop around” and switch authorizers when it’s in danger of intervention or closure. And only those authorizers who adhere to strict standards of practice should be allowed to sponsor schools.
But to raise the bar for quality education in all schools, the Legislature should scrap the Michigan Department Education’s pointless, confusing and convoluted Rainbow Report Card and pass HB 5112, the A-F letter-grading bill, which will provide more meaningful information to parents and stakeholders, creating a level playing field of school accountability for all public schools, including closure of the poorest performing schools.
These are the education priorities the Legislature should pursue this year.
Chairman, Great Lakes Education Project
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