A bill that would lift the cap on opening charter schools in Michigan – allowing for an unlimited number of charters to open – was approved this afternoon by the Senate Education Committee.
The bill is part of a seven-bill package – dubbed the Parent Empowerment Education Reform legislation – that has been debate in the committee the last several weeks.
Among the things the bill would do:
• Universities would no longer be limited to authorizing a maximum of 150 charter schools
• Community colleges could authorize charter schools outside their geographic boundaries
• Charter schools could be located in school districts with a graduation rate of 75% for the last three school years
• Charter schools would be exempt from property taxes
• Charter schools would no longer have to comply with a school district’s collective bargaining agreement
The remaining six bills would accomplish other measures, including allowing parents and teachers to vote to force a conversion of their failing school into a charter school, mandating school districts participate in open enrollment programs, allowing private school students to use state aid to take college courses through the state’s dual enrollment program, and allowing for expansion of programs in which public and private schools share services.
The charter cap bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Voting was split along party lines, with Republican senators Phil Pavlov of St. Clair, Judy Emmons of Sheridan and Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton voting yes, and Democratic senators Coleman A. Young II of Detroit and Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor voting no.
Emmons, while voting yes, indicated she planned to work to include provisions in the bill that would require more transparency of charters.
“Certainly when we’re dealing with public dollars, transparency is key. In a perfect world that’s what we need to strive for,” she said.
It’s unclear when the committee will take a vote on the remaining bills in the package.
Among those speaking in favor of the legislation today was Paul Stankewitz, policy advocate with the Michigan Catholic Conference.
“These bills empower parents, tea chers and students,” he told the committee. Parents, he said, “should be given as many options as possible to place their child in the environment that best suits their needs.”
But Harrison Blackmond, state director for Michigan Democrats for Education Reform, raised concerns, urging lawmakers on the panel to realize the seriousness of what they’re doing.
“If we don’t do it right, it will affect the lives and futures of countless Michigan citizens,” Blackmond said
Article by Lori Higgings
from Detroit Free Press