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Charter advocacy group says Michigan's charter law is among best in U.S.

Boy in classroom with his hand raised
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
A charter advocacy group gives Michigan's charter law a passing grade

Want to open up a charter school? A new report says Michigan has one of the nation’s friendliest laws when it comes to allowing charter schools to open.

The Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group in Washington, DC, says Michigan has the 5th best charter school law in the country.

Jonathan Ogelsby is with the Center. He calls the report a "road map" for state lawmakers to "see how their charter school laws stands up against others in the country."

What does the report evaluate? 

  1. How many groups can authorize charter schools?
  2. Does the state have a cap on the number of charters allowed?
  3. How much autonomy does a charter school have?
  4. Does that state allot equal per pupil funds for charters and traditional schools alike?

What does the report not evaluate? 

The report does not look at academic achievement at charter schools. 

In Michigan Radio's series, Rebuilding Detroit Schools: A Tale of Two Cities, we looked closely at the similarities and differences between charter schools and their traditional counterparts. Recent state test scores show Michigan students in traditional schools outscore charter school students in both grade school and high school. And that's not all:

The Michigan trend mirrors a recent study by Stanford University that looked at charters in 15 states and Washington, DC. The study found that only 17 percent of charter schools did better than traditional public schools. So clearly the results are mixed.

What is a charter school?

Essentially a charter school is like a traditional public school but with more autonomy. Here's how the charter group National Heritage Academies describes it: 

Charter schools are public schools run by independent entities sponsored by a state-approved organization such as a state board of education, a state university, community college or local school district. The voluntary enrollment structure is intended to make charter schools more accountable for student achievement. As a result, charter schools are granted some level of autonomy and freedom from certain local and state regulations. Accordingly, charter schools may hire their own staff, develop their own curriculum and set their own educational programs and methods of operation under the oversight of the school board and authorizer/sponsor.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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