As school reform and charter expansion debate continues, lawmakers seek to pass common-sense fixes
LANSING–Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Representative Charles Brunner (D-Bay City) introduced legislation in the Senate and House today to address the dissolution of charter schools and what happens to the students and taxpayer dollars they leave behind. The need for the legislation was underscored by Governor Snyder’s plan announced today to overhaul Detroit public schools and entrust more students and state money to charter schools and the failed Education Achievement Authority.
“We have an obligation to students to ensure that we are creating the best environment for them to learn and an obligation to taxpayers that we are using their resources wisely to achieve those goals,” said Leader Ananich. “As we’ve seen in Flint and other communities, the closure of charter schools often leaves parents and taxpayers with more questions than answers about their future education and their money, and this legislation helps put a process in place to better protect them.”
The legislation would help clarify the dissolution process of charter schools when their contract is terminated or revoked, and provide transparency to the public by requiring charterschools to post their dissolution process on their website. It would also make sure there is a “shot clock” in place if any balance of taxpayers’ dollars remain and that those dollars come back into the system to benefit students as they are intended.
More specifically, the bill does the following:
o Effective date of revocation.
o Reasons for revocation.
o Description of measures taken to ensure smooth transition for pupils.
“If more children and taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars are going to be directed to the charter option, we need to ensure a fair, transparent system at every level,” said Representative Brunner. “The solutions we are offering today are an important piece of the comprehensive approach to making all of our schools work for everyone.”
After several charter schools in Flint closed over the last few years, students and parents were left in the lurch trying to find a new school. Due to constituent concerns, Senator Ananich began investigating what accountability existed in the system and was disturbed by the results. He wrote a letter to the State Auditor General inquiring about the process for charterschool dissolution and received a response which confirmed many of his fears [letter available upon request.] The Auditor General’s response said that “[t]here are no laws, regulations, or policies requiring the communication or reporting of the PSA dissolution process between departments, to the Legislature, or to the public” and that “[t]here are no state departmental controls over how funds are being accounted for and returned to the State. Instead, the State relies on the PSA to inform it that there are property or funds to be returned to the State.” This finding raised significant concerns and resulted in the legislation Ananich and Brunner introduced to address charter dissolution.
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