This Week & Next (Aug 22, 2014)

18 New Charters to Open in 2014-15 While 11 Charters Closed in 2013-14
This week MAPSA announced that 18 new charter public schools will be opening in the fall, and 14 of these schools are offering high school grades.  These schools, with a variety of innovative academic approaches, will benefit students and families alcharter schools rockl over the state. At the same time, 11 charter public schools were closed this year, resulting in 303 charter schools in 2014-15, enrolling more than 141,000 students, or just over 9% of the state’s K-12 students.

More Flanagan Fallout Over Authorizers
It seems that everywhere you turn, folks are still talking about Superintendent Flanagan’s review of charter school authorizers and his announcement that 11 charter authorizers are “at risk” of suspension. In what appears to be standard operating procedure, the department used secret, non-transparent metrics to go well beyond their authority and produce a provocative “draft” list of targeted authorizers.

It’s a head scratcher to figure out how authorizers that MDE ranked #1 & #2 in 2013 could be ranked so low just one year later? MDE’s claim these authorizers added new schools which dragged them down seems unfair when Fall 2013 MEAP scores for new students/schools shouldn’t really be held against an authorizer during their first month of enrollment.

Flanagan has given authorizers until October 22 to “remediate” their deficiencies and has set a November 22 deadline for a final decision as to which authorizers to suspend, if any. Now, it’s impossible for an authorizer to change the academic data used by the Department that landed them on the “at risk” list in the first place. It’s more likely the department will change the metrics used to measure the academic performance of an authorizer portfolio, by including new data on individual student growth (from NWEA tests, not MEAPP),  This should result in a noticeable reduction in the number of authorizers actually at risk of suspension. Again, MDE created this crisis, MDE will change the rules of the game; and then MDE will announce a shorter list of targets. This could have been handled better, we think.

At the same time, respected attorney Richard McLellan drafted and circulated a comprehensive memorandum that outlines the steps necessary for the Superintendent to actually suspend an authorizer, which includes the drafting and implementation of administrative rules.

Deficit Districts Going Deeper in Debt
Even though it’s against the law for a public school district to operate with a financial deficit, nearly 50 districts are doing so. Now, to make matter worse, the state has agreewimpygovernmentd to loan DPS another $111 million (on top of their $127 million deficit) and will loan Flint Public Schools another $17 million (on top of their $20 million debt).  Reminds us of the Popey and Wimpy method of funding (“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”). When is it Tuesday?

August is Still “Opt Out” Month for MEA
Thanks to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for creating the “August Opt Out” website, which provides easy-to-use forms to help school employees opt-out of the MEA – but only in the month of August.  Click here for a Detroit News column explaining the process.

UPDATE: Still No Superintendents Have Signed the “School Accountability Pledge”
MAPSA’s “School Accountability Pledge” is still available for signing by any traditional public school superintendent willing to operate under same accountability, transparency and oversight laws as Michigan’s charter public schools. We keep waiting for just one superintendent to sign it, and when they do we’ll let you know right away!

The Truth about Education Funding
GLEP’s new website, provides “to the penny” state and local financial data for over 800+ school districts for FY 2012, 2013 and 2014. This site proves that funding, on a per student basis, has gone up by hundreds of dollars per student since Governor Snyder took office.

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Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director