Report says charter school authorizers in Michigan lack oversight

A report out Wednesday shines a spotlight on an ongoing issue in Michigan, concluding that the agencies that authorize charter schools lack state oversight.

The authors of the report, published by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan,  suggest a series of solutions, including a recommendation that the state superintendent, a role now held by Michael Rice, works to strengthen the power he has to hold authorizers accountable.

Michigan charter schools educate 150,000 students, about 10% of the state’s total student population. The schools can be authorized by universities, community colleges, and school districts.

“While authorizers of charter schools are currently providing some degree of oversight, the degree and quality of oversight is unknown and not available to the public, because oversight of the authorizers is lacking,” the report states. “This is a problem since charter schools are providing public education services with tax dollars.”

The report was commissioned by the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School.

The research council recommends:

  • The state superintendent could adopt administrative rules that set requirements for the authorizers and provide better oversight.
  • The Legislature could enact statutes that define oversight expectations and responsibilities.
  • The Legislature could make charter school authorizing a privilege that must be earned and maintained.

Rob Kimball, who chairs the board for the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, said authorizers in the state are “fully accountable.”

“Our state’s children deserve all of us working together to help them succeed and learn, and this report from the Levin Center does nothing to advance those important conversations about student achievement. It divides, rather than unites, by rehashing decades-old arguments that distract us from the real job at hand — educating kids.”

An increasing number of authorizers have sought to address the oversight question by undergoing the process of becoming accredited through a national organization. 

You can read the full report below: