Study slams Mich. oversight of charter authorizers

The report published by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers ranked Michigan last among five states with many authorizers, giving the state just three of 27 possible points. The other four states — Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota and Indiana — all had 18 points or more.

“Michigan is notable within this group of states in that it lacks nearly all of NACSA’s recommended charter school and authorizer accountability provisions that other multi-authorizer states have adopted,” the report says.

The report said Michigan doesn’t automatically close academically failing charters, doesn’t set quality standards for authorizers, doesn’t require annual reports on academic performance and lacks an evaluation process for authorizers.

“In practice, authorizer quality around the state has been mixed,” the report says. “Despite the lack of accountability provisions in law, some authorizers do follow best practices in charter school accountability that meet many of NACSA’s criteria.”

The report urges Michigan to revamp its charter school law to include “strong charter school and authorizer accountability provisions.”

Needed changes include revoking the authority of poorly performing authorizers to open new schools and oversee existing charters, according to the report. It also calls on the state to strengthen its requirements for charter renewals.

In July, state school Superintendent Mike Flanagan declared he would suspend the authority of authorizers to open new charter schools unless they met new standards.

A message was left Thursday morning seeking comment from the Michigan Department of Education.

According to the study, Michigan has 136,859 students attending 297 charter schools with 39 authorizers. The number of charter schools and enrollment has surged since the state passed a law allowing charter schools two decades ago.

“Michigan students deserve the same quality assurances that leading education states provide for their students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, a Royal Oak-based think tank. “We can — and we must — do better for our kids.”

NACSA is a Chicago-based organization that represents charter school authorizers.

“We anticipate that state legislatures will use this report to strengthen their charter school laws, especially concerning accountability,” said Greg Richmond, the group’s president and CEO.