Editorial

Michigan begins to crumble for lack of oversight, accountability (the bill is in the mail)

February 26, 2016
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is reporting on The Education Trust-Midwest study, “Accountability for All: 2016,” which shows 80 percent of Michigan charter schools performed below the state average for academic achievement in both math and reading.

Even in West Michigan, only Grand Rapids Public Schools was not among them, achieving the highest ranking and “some of the largest learning gains of any public school statewide.”

Politically, popular thinking has been that charter schools were the savior of an antiquated, failing education system forever hampered by unions and bureaucracies, or even politically charged local school boards.

Instead, failures are no different in the vast majority of Michigan charter schools. Michigan’s national ranking among public and charter schools puts the state in the bottom 50, including “affluent” school districts.

Michigan schools are failures, at a cost of $14 billion. Some of the reasons may be in the Education Trust findings:

  • Charters receive more than $1 billion of taxpayer dollars annually.
  • The ETM notes that no one, including the governor, holds authorizers accountable for their performance, despite the tremendous implications.
  • The state superintendent has legislatively limited oversight over suspending charter authorizers or preventing those that are failing from opening new schools.

Grand Rapids Business Journal columnist and Michigan Future Inc President Lou Glazer wrote in the Business Journal last November, Michigan “is a national laggard. All kids, not just poor kids, minority kids, urban kids.”

Glazer referred to the results of the new state M-STEP assessment showing Michigan students — at all tested grade levels — to be about 50 percent proficient in reading. In math, state students are one-third proficient, except for third- and fourth-graders who are around one-half proficient.

Glazer also reported results from NAEP, the nation’s report card that provides apples-to-apples data for states. NAEP proficiency is even lower than M-STEP.

Glazer wrote last fall that the excuse used for Michigan’s poor performance “is due to having more minority and/or low-income students than high ranking states,” but Glazer reported Michigan’s higher-income students rank 48th in 4th grade reading, 33rd in 8th grade reading, 45th in 4th grade math and 41st in 8th grade math.

Gov. Rick Snyder in mid-February proposed budget increases this year for Michigan schools. The Associated Press reported districts would receive between $60 and $120 more per student in state funding in the next budget. The $14 billion school aid fund would grow by 2 percent.

The international debacle of Detroit Public Schools, under state oversight since 2009, amounts to a debt of $515 million by summer. Legislators are forced to patch the problem, as they have roads, with tobacco suit money and other funds.

Michigan’s infrastructure would seem to be crumbling in every direction, like the first cracks in the road: consider recent issues of “lack of oversight” such as those found at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, the charter schools report, national education rankings, the Flint water supply.

The ETM advocated for Michigan’s first accountability system for charter schools to address the “devastatingly low performance” in schools.

In fact, oversight and accountability is needed at many levels.

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