Reforming Michigan’s Charter Schools

April 2017
Casey VanderWeide

Michigan has long been on the forefront on implementing charter schools. A charter school, sometimes referred to as a public school academy, is a state-funded public school under the state constitution that is operated “under a charter contract issued by a public authorizing body” (“Michigan Public Academies (Charter Schools)). It was one on the first 10 states to create charter schools, with Michigan permitting charter schools in 1993 (Center for Education Reform). In 2011 Senate Bill 618 eliminated the cap that the state placed on the number of charter schools allowed by the beginning of 2015 (SB 618). Since then, there has been an influx in the amount of charter schools in Michigan. The elimination of the cap on charter schools has been the most controversial part about the debate in Michigan. Proponents of banning the cap on charter schools argue that the freedom for school of choice should not be dictated by the state. With Michigan schools ranking in the bottom of national averages, charter schools are a way to reverse those rankings. Opponents of the implementation of charter schools in Michigan, like Amber Arellano who is the Executive Director of The Education Trust-Midwest, argue that charter schools are hindering Michigan students, especially of those who come from low socioeconomic areas and are disproportionally affecting African American and Mexican students. With mounting pressure from groups like the Education Trust-Midwest, what can be done to fix what seems like a broken system when outside players are affecting Michigan’s charter school policies? In this paper I will argue how the implementation of performance standards of charter schools, establishing a governing body for charters, and improving working conditions for teachers can help combat the negative performance of charter schools and offer an alternative for students across the state.