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Posted on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

Michigan Senate sends charter schools legislation to Snyder's desk for signature

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Republican-led Michigan Senate today gave final approval to a bill that would lift restrictions on the number of charter schools, angering Democrats.

The Senate approved the measure by a 22-16 vote, mostly along party lines. It now goes to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

State Reps. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, are among those blasting the GOP for the move.

David_Rutledge_ headshot_2010.jpg

David Rutledge


Jeff Irwin

"The bill is bad for the high-quality charter schools in Michigan, as it gives profit-hungry companies a huge incentive to come into our state and start up new charters without proper controls," Rutledge said in a statement, also calling it bad for traditional public schools.

Supporters say more charter schools should be allowed to boost options in public education. But opponents of the legislation argue that could hurt traditional public school districts and the plan does not provide enough oversight or do enough to ensure quality.

"This bill will draw even more resources away from our public school system and our classrooms," Irwin said in a statement.

Irwin argued Republicans passed the measure despite data that show charter schools underperforming compared with traditional public schools in Michigan.

"When 75 percent of charter schools demonstrate below average performance, we should be focused on improving charters instead of working to replicate these abysmal results," he said.

The state now has more than 200 charter schools and new ones are allowed to open under certain circumstances.

The state currently has a limit of 150 charter schools authorized by public universities. The cap would be gradually lifted and end in 2015 under the legislation.

Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township and sponsor of Senate Bill 618, called removal of the cap a critical step toward improving Michigan's education system.

He said two-thirds of the state's charter schools have waiting lists as parents demand more choices and better results for their children.

Irwin said he strongly urges Snyder to veto the legislation.

"Our students deserve the best schools," he said. "Instead, House Republicans have slashed school funding despite a huge surplus in the School Aid Fund. Now, they are draining even more resources from our public schools by greatly expanding the number of charter schools, even when the operators of these schools are routinely failing our students."

In addition to removing the cap on charters, the Legislature is considering other reform measures to expand opportunities for cyber learning, allow a majority of parents or teachers at a failing school to petition their district to convert the school to a charter, expand opportunities for public school districts to provide part-time services to non-public school students, and allow access to dual enrollment college credits for all high school students.

Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, is fighting back with legislation of her own to ban for-profit schools in Michigan.

Warren called on Snyder to veto the legislation that was passed by the Senate today. She said it only weakens Michigan's public education system, lowers academic standards and opens the floodgates for for-profit, privately managed schools.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

Both Charter and Public schools should be accountable for teaching our children--basically going back to reading, writing and math. Government/administrators need to get out of the educational business and let the teachers, instructors, etc. do their jobs. With so many rules, regulations it is difficult to fit in those studies that are extremely important, such as mentioned above.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

Charter schools do not have the infrastructure to help students with special needs. That leaves a bigger burden on the public schools.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

John Q - The 9.7% number is very close to the state average. sh1 - Again I ask for a study that has real numbers in it. The California study that the MEA wants to use to bash charters says that charter schools have about the same percentage of IEPs (special education students) as public schools. Every study that I have seen (12 so far) that has data, indicates that the California study is right on this one point.

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 7 p.m.

Compared to what percentage of public schools? 9.7% is pathetic.

Dave Koziol

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

What is the basis for this statement? My children's charter school provides as much or more help to special needs kids as the public school we previously attended. Information on the Michigan Association of Charter School Boards says 9.7% of charter school children have special needs.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 5:57 a.m.

What irks me about the "competition" model of school vs school is that people assume all students are starting at the same "starting line" and running on the same "event", which they're not. To keep going with the track and field analogy, you have to realize that each student has his or her own unique mix of "events" they're running. Some have a 100m dash, some a 3200m run, and some just have so many hurdles in their lives that they keep getting knocked down and don't stand a chance. It'll be an interesting, and probably sad, situation we find ourselves in when we suddenly realize we have schools basically segregated along the lines of who is set up to succeed or fail academically. Some communities are well on their way there.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 5:22 a.m.

Watch this. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The example of the test given to students in a top New Jersey school and a school in Belgium is very interesting. Also, Jay Leno asking students which state holds the Kentucky Derby is kind of telling too.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 5:12 a.m.

Sounds like the legislation will provide for better education. Public schools would have nothing to fear if their quality was such that parents were satisfied with it. A child gets just one chance at an education and if public schools can't provide a good education then there has to be an alternative. The quote included here: &quot;He said two-thirds of the state's charter schools have waiting lists as parents demand more choices and better results for their children,&quot; is quite telling. If true it is a solid indicator that there is a need for alternate choices for parents. The opposition from the democrats is more for support of the unions than the children.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 3:07 a.m.

&quot;State Reps. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, are among those blasting the GOP for the move.&quot; We have Rutledge, and Irwin, Warren and Stabenow, Levin and Carter and Laidlaw and Morrison. But do you recall , the biggest anti charter school person of all. Brit Satchwell the AAEA president (make the rest up yourself to the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer ) . Now blast away , blast away , blast away all ! If these folks are unhappy , it means I am happy ! Good Day


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 10:48 p.m.

More profit for companies with less oversight, a winning combination from a Republican point of view. Ever look at the statistics of special needs kids in charter schools? Few to none. It's called cherry picking so you don't have to spend the extra money to educate them. More profit. Why couldn't some provisions be put in making sure bad apples don't get to start these things up? Would it have been that hard? Nope. But ideology trumps facts and facts might show that ideology isn't actually right so you have to avoid those nasty facts.

Dave Koziol

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Where do you get your research? The information I've seen shows between 9-10% of children in charter schools have special needs? Charter schools are NOT allowed to cherry pick.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

Bravo...more choice and more competition

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

I want a say in how my tax dollars are spent.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 4:05 a.m.

I trust parents more than the teachers unions Do not send your kids to a charter school leave the rest of us alone

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

Less accountability for public tax dollars.

Dog Guy

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Michigan kids are escaping from public schools. The unions' pet politicos continue to legitimize enslaving children in the public schools, but temporarily without success. When parents tell children to follow the big dipper to charter schools, the old methods of coercion will no longer protect our wonderful system. Did public schools fail to indoctrinate the current parents and voters? No, I suspect that recent immigrants have spread freedom-of-choice ideas. The system of unions, politicians, and public schools must be protected from new ideas. The three above-named politicos are doing their part.

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:42 a.m.

Yawn. Anyone who talks about enslaving children isn't even worth a response.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

Dog, where did you go to school for your K-12 education?

Top Cat

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

A home run for children and their parents.

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Only if you believe in removing taxpayer accountability for how their tax dollars is spent is a home run.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

John Q, This is anything but a strike out for taxpayers. It is a 500 foot home run, hit right out of the ball park ! Go Green Go White

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

A strike out for taxpayers.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

Competition fixes everything, right? Who is going to educate the special needs kids? What about the kids who don't have transportation to these schools? Snyder and the crew are doing their best to strangle public education by cutting business taxes and then making education pay for those cuts, now they let charters go wild and siphon off more money from public schools. I see down the road that there will be a bill passed allowing Charters to charge tuition above the foundation grant. Then all the poor get relegated to the public schools and the people with money, go to the charters. Sounds like the first step in the privatization of public schools to the detriment of the poor.

Dave Koziol

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

Charter schools are required to educated special needs kids, and research shows somewhere between 9-10% of charter school children have special needs.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

&quot;start up new charters without proper controls&quot; Charter schools are effectively controlled by parents who transfer their kids out if the schools don't deliver. Very unlike the old government monopoly system where you either stuck with what Big Brother gave you, moved to a less bad district, or had enough money to both pay government school taxes and private school tuition to send your kids to Emerson and Greenhills along with the (mostly) limousine liberals.

John Q

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:44 a.m.

If that was true, we wouldn't have under performing charter schools. Unfortunately, it's not true, just excuses made up to keep the public from being able to hold charters accountable for how they spend our tax dollars.