Betsy DeVos’ path to an easier confirmation

It’s no surprise that President-elect Donald Trump has picked Michigan’s Betsy DeVos to be the new U.S. Secretary of Education. She’s been passionately interested in schools and school choice for decades and she and her husband, Richard DeVos, are among the highest profile donors to the Republican Party in the nation.

A firm supporter of charter schools and school vouchers, Mrs. DeVos gets wide credit for her staunch philosophy that all students deserve access to a quality education, whether through traditional public schools or not. The obvious question is how Michigan’s educational record on charters (heavily influenced over the years by her views) casts light on her likely policies when running the Department of Education.

More coverage: Betsy DeVos’ Michigan legacy

Historically, Republicans and Democrats have very different reactions to education reform programs like charters. Democrats have a tendency to ignore bad public schools, defer to teacher unions and excuse bad teachers. Republican ideology requires that private (i.e. choice) is always better than public (monopoly), opposes most oversight, and believes the Michigan Educational Association (MEA), the main teachers’ union, is a dangerous force for mediocrity. Both sides tend to let adults argue while in effect ignoring the kids.

Nationally, 42 states and the District of Columbia now offer some kind of schools-of-choice program. Across the country, results from charter schools, which began in Minnesota in 1991, vary widely from state to state. The best and most reliable data show that charters in Michigan do not substantially out-perform public schools, and where they do the difference is very slight.

Unfortunately, Michigan does not seem to have followed examples of states with the best charters. The reasons for our lagging are pretty clear. One key to success is tough oversight. As profiled in previous Bridge Magazine articles, Massachusetts has some of the best charters in the country, resulting from tough state oversight of startups and continuing performance results. New Orleans, with a wide network of generally successful charter schools, is tough on oversight and aggressive in getting rid of underperforming schools.

Michigan, however, is regarded as the “wild west” of the charter school movement. According to The Economist magazine, “Dozens of different outfits, including public universities, can authorize charters in exchange for a cut of the revenues going to those schools.

“Operators can therefore shop around until someone lets them set up a school … No one holds the authorizers accountable, although they oversee $1 billion in taxpayers’ money every year.”

There are more than 300 charter schools in Michigan, more than double the number there were in 2000, suggesting high parental demand for alternative schooling for their children.

In Detroit, more students are in charters than the city’s traditional public schools, in large part because of the traditional public schools’ horrible reputation. And while a few charters in Michigan perform at the top of the charts, still more are not succeeding.

In 2013-14, for example, 70 percent of Detroit’s charter schools ranked in the bottom quarter of all Michigan schools, according to the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonprofit education policy and advocacy organization. Charters (especially in Detroit) are also accused of poaching students from public schools, thereby diverting more than $7,000 per pupil in funding away from the traditional schools.

Last May, a proposed Detroit Education Commission, with the power to approve or deny location for new schools (including charters) was shot down in the legislature – evidently in response to Republican leadership pressure, reportedly at the behest of the DeVos family’s Great Lakes Education Project and other pro-charter lobbies.

Lots of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit companies. Many do not make available to the public their financial performance, even though they are funded by taxpayer dollars. The risk of abuse in such cases is obvious.

Michigan does not require charter operators to have a proven track record before they are authorized to open schools. Moreover, our state does relatively little to discipline poor performers; the number of underperforming schools exceeds by far the high achievers, according to a study by the Detroit Free Press.

These factors make Michigan an easy target for reformers and charter critics, including the MEA.

So far as I know, the DeVos family has been consistent and passionate in both its commitment to excellent schools for all children and to public charters. Fine. That’s great -- in theory.

But the family’s past record of giving lavishly to Republicans and advocating for little or no regulation for charters makes them an easy target for political criticism.

To me, it would make sense if Betsy DeVos would consider taking steps to markedly improve the level of oversight over Michigan charters and work for release of private charter companies’ financial statements while she is awaiting her confirmation hearings.

Not only would that likely improve the performance of charter schools in this state, but it would also make her confirmation easier and less aggressively partisan. Those are things you might think the Trump Administration, Ms. DeVos, and all of us might be grateful for.

About The Author

Phil Power

Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and economics. He is also the founder and chairman of the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit, non-partisan centrist think–and–do tank, designed to cure Michigan’s dysfunctional political culture; the Center publishes Bridge Magazine. The opinions expressed here are Power’s own and do not represent the official views of the Center. He welcomes your comments at ppower@hcn.net.

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Comments

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 9:53am
Thank you. This is another excellent essay discussing the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The morning New York Times had two such essays today including one focused quite directly on her role in the Detroit schools.
Brian
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 10:00am
It won't happen, of course.
Dave
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 10:16am
Great article- if the public only knew how much charter companies are making on the backs of Michigan kids! Scandalous and we have an incoming Secretary of Ed. who thinks its fine....
Rick
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 10:26am
Some disclosure might in order, don't you think? The DeVos family is a financial supporter of The Bridge, correct? The DeVos family has one goal for education: destroy the public school system, destroy the teachers unions and introduce religion ('their religion') into our schools.
Phil Power
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 12:04pm
The De Vos family does not provide financial support to Bridge Magazine or the Center for Michigan.
Tony Infante
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:25am
Your advice sounds shabby indeed Mr. Power. You've glossed over the fact that Betsy DeVos spent lavishly in recent months to extort Republicans in Lansing from voting for oversight of charters in Detroit. She's worked for twenty years to bring about for profit public education without any discernible positive data regarding outcomes. She's also worked to dismantle unions and claimed public employees earn too much. These facts are well known here and (thankfully) been generating national attention in the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere since her nomination by the despicable Trump. So now you recommend that she perform a little hypocrite dance that would ameliorate all her efforts to shift public education to a for profit scam? If you think the Trump Administration has an interest in transparency commensurate with that of the public, then perhaps you've been sleeping.
Jim Hendricks
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:27am
The current US Department of Education budget is about $74 billion. If we were truly conscious of the US Constitution and its explicit allocation of powers, we would adhere to the 10th Amendment, and totally shut down the Department of Education and return all of the money to the states. This would average out to $1.4 billion per state. Think of what each state might do with that kind of additional funding they could use for education without all of the suffering bureaucracy and micro-managing from Washington. And to boot, it is what the framers intended! Let freedom ring!
Mike R
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 9:17pm
"Think of what each state might do with that kind of additional funding...". Yes: give tax breaks to the wealthy, the usual Republican default position. Or spend it on just about anything EXCEPT education. Your tired William Bennett/Ronald Reagan "Dismantle the Department of Education" long ago foundered on the shoals of Republican hypocrisy. Look at the current Republican lame-duck session efforts to take even MORE money from education (not to mention teacher retirement). Thank God people like you are NOT in charge; our children would all be hyper-Christian, fundamentalist, rigid, mean-spirited Neanderthal misers. "Let Freedom Ring"? Is that code for "Screw the kids, put the money in MY pocket"?
DER
Sun, 12/18/2016 - 8:56am

Thank you Mike R.

mary
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:34am
I have been involved in education for over 55 years- as a certified teacher in five states, a degree in teaching, and as a school board member for 16 years in MI. Since I first moved to MI in 1971, we have had this continuing discussion-how to help the DPS system. Charter schools with oversight as is done in Massachusetts should be supported by all involved particularly the legislature. It is disappointing that our elected state representatives would "sell their souls" in order to gain donations for re-election.
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:34am
With the exception of the last five sentences, thus far the comments outshine the essay.
duane
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:46am
"Both sides tend to let adults argue while in effect ignoring the kids." This statement is proven true in the article. Mr. Power makes no other comments nor raises any questions about the children, he doesn't wonder how the ‘oversight’ he likes include the children in the process, he only talking about adults and what they emphasize. What if the ‘oversight’ is nothing more than the Hawthorne Effect? When you only focus on the oversight of adults you risk ignoring the children, and when you ignore the children they become lost and we have the results we are getting. I wonder how the oversight engages the children, how they identify what is working and why and what isn’t working and why not. I wonder how that oversight process shares that across the schools so other can use the successes and avoid the disappointments. The reality is that students are unique and how they succeed has to do with what they are interested in, how learning is encouraged, why learning is important. When Mr. Power talks of “tough oversight” it gives the impression that it is all about enforcement, that makes me wonder about how are the children and their learning included in the 'oversight'. Learning is not driven by enforcement otherwise the old use of the paddle would have made past generations better 'educated', each student is unique and they learn differently [they chose whether they learn or not], effective education is dynamic and the protocols need to include that. I believe strongly in the value of a protocol/practices/results validation process. I can assure you that each community, each school [even within the same school system] is different; it is influenced by the nature of the community [size, location, culture, expectations, etc.] and if that isn’t recognized/accommodated in the 'oversight' system than the learning will not noticeably change from what we get now.
Mary Peterson
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 3:50pm
As a taxpayer I would like to know what percentage of my money is going to line the pockets of the corporation running the school and what percent is for program and curriculum development for the students.
duane
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 3:58pm
Mary, I wonder why you are only concerned with spending accountability when it is a private company and not when it is a public organization such as schools. If both are spending public money on educating students why not hold them both accountable to the same expectations?
Susan
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 7:32pm
Public schools have open books regarding tax payer money. You can readily see how much goes into programming and how much goes into salaries. To my knowledge, private educational corporations have not provided that information, including their profit margins. Mary is correct to question how for-profit corporations are using our tax dollars.
duane
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:56pm
Susan, My concern is first with results [student learning], next conformance with the laws [no embezzlement], then long-term viability of the schools. To me successful learning in K-12 can establish a lifetime of learn that can provide for a life of financial and social success, and that creates a value to all. How that is achieved, moneys spent, need to be measured relative to results. And the spending needs to be such that it doesn't overwhelm the future financial stability [not over committing future financial spending, such as the current retirement burden has become].
David
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 3:55pm
Mr. Power's focus on oversight has the implicit suggestion that Michigan look at models of success (i.e. that of Massachusettes). Historically, we have mirrored the high level of educational success which that state has achieved but not over the past couple decades. Are we really that demographically different for such a proven, working-model to be implemented here -- or, is it more a lack of political will and insight? Another sad and glaring example in defense of those who find themselves using the pejorative "Michissippi" when referring to our "public/governmental state of affairs" (I don't recall hearing "Massassippi") -- especially when it comes to education (which, as one commentator made the point of, is a major Constitutionally-empowered state responsibility).
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 12:04pm
Phil, I have been a supporter of parent choice, before choice was legislated in 1993. I am also a strong advocate of "setting the bar high" for all public schools, both traditional public schools, and charter public schools. Because traditional and charter schools are public schools, supported by Michigan tax dollars, they should both be held accountable to the same high standards, but in reality they are not. Charters do get a "free pass", and multiple research studies conclude that they are not outperforming traditional public schools. If Ms. DeVos is approved as U.S Secretary of Education, she needs to "level the playing field", and require all public schools to adhere to the same High Standards. Thank you. Dr. Mike Shibler, superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools.
Mary Peterson
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 2:50pm
What? Non-public schools being held accountable for use of taxpayer dollars? Not a Republican value.
Matt
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 4:14pm
I suspect that everyone, yes even Betsy DeVos, believes there should be a high level of accountability for charter, public and even private schools for that matter. The question is accountable to whom and what is to be expected? Should this be a bunch of incompetent political hacks with a long record of failure as in Detroit? The State board of Ed? The same Phd educational experts that have overseen decades of mediocrity or failure? Coming up with how this evaluation is going to be done and who is going to do it would be an interesting discussion..
David Sharpe
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 5:32pm
In addition to not knowing the correct name of the MICHIGAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Mr Powers inaccurately describes the democrat's behavior and values in regard to the problems of education. He would be better to look at the actions of public school teachers and not equate the democratic and republican parties as being insensitive to educational needs. Very few, if any, educational plans or systems have been able to solve the many problems of urban education. Schools do well when parents are involved and are supportive of the school. Any school works when the students come prepared and have parental support. We will solve the problems of schools when we solve the many problems that create failing schools. This will happen when schools are properly funded, teachers are supported by the public, and the media stops name calling and starts reporting the wealth of good things that are happening in most Michigan schools. David
Michigan Observer
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 5:35pm
Mr. Power says, "The best and most reliable data show that charters in Michigan do not substantially out-perform public schools, and where they do the difference is very slight." After contending that Michigan's charters lag the nation's best charters, he goes on to say, "The reasons for our lagging are pretty clear. One key to success is tough oversight." But, if Michigan's charters perform about the same as our public schools, it's apparent that "tough oversight" by the education establishment makes little or no difference. It doesn't add value. He accurately notes that "Massachusetts has some of the best charters in the country, resulting from tough state oversight of startups and continuing performance results." But then Massachusetts is generally regarded as having the best schools in the nation, so that is not so surprising. He quotes the Economist as saying, " No one holds the authorizers accountable, although they oversee $1 billion in taxpayers’ money every year.” The conventional public schools spend far more than that without noticeably better results even though they are fully accountable to local and state authorities. And no doubt it is the case that " 70 percent of Detroit’s charter schools ranked in the bottom quarter of all Michigan schools, according to the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonprofit education policy and advocacy organization." But that is not the relevant comparison is it? It is typical of the work of Education Trust-Midwest to not take into account the socio-economic conditions in Detroit. And he says, "Charters (especially in Detroit) are also accused of poaching students from public schools, thereby diverting more than $7,000 per pupil in funding away from the traditional schools." First, if an organization is doing a bad job, isn't it appropriate for customers, parents in this case, to withdraw their patronage? Secondly, Mr. Power does not mention that the loss of a student also reduces the costs of that school. He says of for-profit charter schools that " Many do not make available to the public their financial performance, even though they are funded by taxpayer dollars. The risk of abuse in such cases is obvious." Just why would there be "risk of abuse"? Does your local hardware store or supermarket post their financial performance? Educational results are what is crucial. A charter school gets a fixed amount per student. If they get stellar results, who cares about their profit or loss? Would a parent choose a mediocre school if they lost money? Why? Or would a parent shun a good school because they made a significant profit? Why? Mr. Power properly emphasizes accountability and oversight, but why not place that power in the hands of parents? Obviously, the education establishment has not done an adequate job of exercising it. He notes, "Michigan does not require charter operators to have a proven track record before they are authorized to open schools." Why not provide that information to parents? Why not a Consumer Reports for schools? Why not provide every parent with complete information about every school? What percentage of parents, given complete, detailed information about schools, aren't capable of making the choice, that overall, best suits them? It is true that most of our charters don't perform significantly better than our public schools. But they do perform substantially better than public schools in urban districts. In some cases, they add several months of education. As he says, "In Detroit, more students are in charters than the city’s traditional public schools, in large part because of the traditional public schools’ horrible reputation." Have all those parents made bad decisions?
Plan 9 From Out...
Wed, 12/14/2016 - 7:32am
While former charter school management company head Steven Ingersoll’s years-long excursion through federal court appears to be drawing to a close, it’s important to note Ingersoll’s shocking diversion of an estimated $5.0 million from the Grand Traverse Academy has yet to be investigated. And while it’s a complex story, here’s why you should care: it’s your money. I bring you “INGERSOLL 101”, the comprehensive backstory of this financial scandal. At the start of each fiscal year, (beginning July 1, 2007 and continuing for six years through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013), Grand Traverse Academy (GTA) manager Steven Ingersoll withdrew his entire annual Smart Schools Management, Inc. fee from the Traverse City, Michigan charter school’s bank account before it had been earned — and before he was contractually entitled to receive it. Although ostensibly based on a percentage of the GTA board’s approved preliminary budget figures, Ingersoll’s management fee was necessarily “adjusted downward” after actual budgets were calculated at the end of each year. Ingersoll booked the overpayment on the GTA’s balance sheet as either “accounts receivable” or a “prepaid expense”, claiming them as “assets”, concealing the school’s shaky financial condition. The scheme was apparently supported by then board president Mark Noss, who explained it away in a September 17, 2014 Interlochen Public Radio interview: “There were times when the resources were just not there. So Smart Schools basically pledged or rebated that money back, saying ‘at some point in time we will repay what we’re calling a prepaid expense.’” However, Ingersoll never really repaid the difference between the amount he’d advanced himself (“what we’re calling a prepaid expense”) and the actual management fee he should have received. So how did the receivable grow from $538,864 on June 30, 2007 to $3,551,328 on June 30, 2012 if Ingersoll, as he’d claimed in multiple financial documents to the GTA board, booked each year’s fee overpayment as a receivable and paid it off at the beginning of the next fiscal year? Simple: after Ingersoll paid the previous year’s receivable balance using Michigan state aid money provided to the Grand Traverse Academy, he then transferred that money back days later from the Academy’s bank account to one of his Smart Schools accounts, and created a new, and even larger, receivable balance. (Ingersoll finally admitted the multi-year scheme on December 9, 2015 while testifying during his still ongoing sentencing hearing). Representatives of the GTA board, including its then-president Noss, met with attorneys from the Thrun Law Firm and Steven Ingersoll on May 20, 2013. During the meeting, Ingersoll admitted owing the charter school at least $3.5 million but asked to have the debt classified as a “loan”. According to the May 30, 2013 Thrun Law Firm legal recommendation to Noss and the GTA board, the issue before the board related “to funds withdrawn from the Academy’s general fund by Steven Ingersoll and/or representatives of SSM, which exceed the amount appropriated or authorized by the Board to be paid to SSM for either management fees or the reimbursement of Academy expenses.” The letter estimated Ingersoll’s debt to the Traverse City charter school at $3,548,319 (based on information provided by Ingersoll’s handpicked CPA, Tony Henning). As Henning had relied solely on “financial reports and representations of Steve Ingersoll” to determine the amount, Thrun repeatedly urged the GTA board to “independently verify the full sum due” instead of merely accepting Henning’s number. Representing the interests of the GTA and its board, not Steven Ingersoll and Smart Schools Management, Thrun affirmed in its May 30, 2013 letter that “Steven Ingersoll openly admitted, when asked by us during the May 20th meeting, that a conflict exists between his personal interests and the interests of the Academy.” However, the GTA board ignored Thrun’s recommendation to verify Ingersoll’s numbers, instead using CPA Henning’s exact $3,548,319 amount in its June 13, 2013 “demand letter” to Steven Ingersoll. On June 30, 2013, the GTA board and Ingersoll agreed on a “repayment plan”, revealing the details in the Academy’s 2013 financial statement. The agreement allowed Ingersoll to “work off” his balance by foregoing management fee payments over the remaining three fiscal years of his management contract. However, a November 25, 2013 letter from Doug Bishop, the GTA board’s former attorney, to Michigan Department of Education auditor John Brooks revealed one stunning exception: although the board of directors, headed at that time by longtime Ingersoll business associate Mark Noss, publicly stated in the Academy’s 2013 financial statement its decision to credit Ingersoll’s future management fees against his $2.38 million dollar “prepaid expense” balance until it was reduced to zero, the Board still authorized a cash payment of “approximately $332,000 in pre-obligated, annual debt service of SSM with regard to GTA has agreed to pay to SSM.” After publicly revealing in its 2013 financial report, and sticking to the story that Ingersoll would be working off his prepaid balance by foregoing any future management fee payments, the Grand Traverse Academy board instead paid Ingersoll $332,000 so he could have the cash flow necessary to make payments on a personal, unspecified Smart Schools Management business debt. GTA board president Mark Noss later oversaw an early morning meeting on March 19, 2014 where the board voted unanimously to officially “withdraw from the management contract with Smart Schools Management, Inc.” Minutes later, the board accepted the resignation of “Mark Noss as the President of the Board.” Although Noss tendered his resignation during this meeting, the resignation was not effective immediately. GTA records revealed Noss continued to serve in a dual role as a board member until its May 2014 meeting, nearly two months after signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar management contract. Steven Ingersoll was indicted on April 9, 2014. Ingersoll was charged with three counts of wire fraud, two counts of tax evasion, one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, and one count of attempted conspiracy. (Four co-defendants, including Ingersoll’s wife Deborah, were also charged on various fraud and conspiracy counts). An April 24, 2014 superseding indictment further charged Steven Ingersoll with tax evasion regarding his attempt to “disguise the money allegedly received from Grand Traverse Academy” —which was also named by the government as the motive for the bank fraud conspiracy and tax evasion conspiracy. Steven Ingersoll was convicted of three counts of fraud and tax evasion on March 10, 2015. (Ingersoll’s sentencing hearing began on October 21, 2015 and a hearing on revisions to his pre-sentencing report is scheduled for December 15, 2016.) On March 15, 2016, an accountant formerly employed by Mark Noss at his Full Spectrum Management revealed to the GTA board and the charter school’s authorizer, Lake Superior State University, that Noss had been making $12,500 monthly payments (and in some months, much more) to Ingersoll since April 2014, shortly after Noss assumed control of the GTA. Using information provided by the whistle blowing accountant, (who resigned shortly after making his revelations public), federal prosecutors were able to substantiate that between April 8, 2014 and March 1, 2016, Steven Ingersoll received a total of $627, 624.14 from Full Spectrum Management, the educational services provider owned by Mark Noss and holder of the management contract for the Grand Traverse Academy or Grand Traverse Academy itself. All of that money went into accounts owned by Steven Ingersoll and his solely owned entities. An excerpt from the April 29, 2016 document: “In assessing the credibility of Habermehl as a witness and Noss as an affiant in this matter, the court must consider the relationships they have with Ingersoll and how their financial and personal relationships with Ingersoll have influenced the representations that Habermehl and Noss have made to the court. The evidence discussed above casts doubt on the credibility of Ingersoll, Noss and Habermehl.” In a December 5, 2016 court filing, government prosecutors stated the following: “The GTA board at all relevant times has been controlled by Ingersoll’s friends and business associates. The GTA board as an entity was not victimized by Ingersoll’s diversion of per pupil state aid from that publicly-funded school. It cost the GTA board nothing to acquiesce in Ingersoll’s manipulation of the GTA budget to conceal his diversion of funds that should have been used to educate GTA students. By his conduct, however, Ingersoll did victimize the students, faculty and staff of the GTA, as well as the tax-paying public at both the federal and state level. In fact, now that Ingersoll is (hopefully) prevented from engaging further in his shell-game financing of his self-aggrandizing Bay City Academy project with Grand Traverse Academy funds, the continued viability of BCA is becoming increasingly questionable.” There is an important story here. Ask yourself why you’ve never heard of it.
Matt
Wed, 12/14/2016 - 7:50am
I think the important point of this long drawn out tale of woe is that if the parents don't like the education they are getting here, can they pull their kid out? Beyond that why is it my or anyone else's business? Then you could get a different hobby?
Anna
Wed, 12/14/2016 - 12:56pm
I'm hard pressed to imagine what additional public oversight Phil Powers thinks is needed for charter schools that isn't even more critical in Michigan's traditional public school systems. Like the public school system, Michigan's charter schools must accept all applicants or admit students based on a lottery if there are more applicants than places. That includes special needs students who are included in general education classrooms whenever parents apply on their behalf. The admission decision/lottery happens *before* the special needs must be disclosed to the charter school administration. Anecdotes aren't data, but of the 7 kids who had IEP's that I know well, all but one of them did significantly better socially and academically in a charter school than in their neighborhood school. Michigan's charter schools are subject to exactly the same laws regarding financial disclosure as traditional public school districts are. Most traditional school districts use one or more management companies, employee leasing services or contractors to support non-core activities such as food services, payroll, legal advice, computer and telephone networking, transportation, groundskeeping, maintenance, and construction. Many also contract out selected core education services, such as substitute teachers, school psychologists, classroom aides, school nurses, and teachers' aides. Almost no school districts, neither charter nor traditional, make public the details of these out-sourcing contracts, including the pay rates of school staff not employed directly by the district. Most traditional public schools make their teachers' union contracts semi-public, but none of the other contracts are subject to review except by the school board or district employees. Charter schools with management company contracts follow the same disclosure practices as traditional public school systems do. In addition to following the same financial laws and the same standardized testing and results reporting requirements as traditional public schools do, charter schools are significantly more accountable to the parents of their students. A parent who doesn't like the policies or results of a charter school can seek out another charter, the local public school, or apply to a neighboring school district that accepts Schools of Choice students. Charter schools are also accountable to their charter authorizer for both their academic and their financial results. More than 100 Michigan charter schools have been closed because of academic failure or failure to attract enough students to remain viable. How many traditional public schools have been closed for poor academic results? I've searched and found exactly one, which was a school the EAA and Detroit Public Schools jointly decided to close at the end of the 2016-17 school year rather than reintegrate into the new DCPS district.
Bob Balwinski
Wed, 12/14/2016 - 2:55pm
Anna, perhaps this in-depth article from the Detroit Free Press can help you understand the issue. If not, perhaps I can share experiences from my 40 years in public education including my 9 years with the Michigan Department of Education where I visited school districts and charter schools to monitor federal programs. http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2014/06/22/michigan-spend...
Donna Anuskiewicz
Sat, 12/17/2016 - 1:32pm

It would be a surprise, Mr. Power, if Mrs. DeVos follows your advice either by "taking steps to markedly improve the level of oversight over Michigan charters" or call for "release of private charter companies' financial statements" since either would contradict her life's work and possible ruin her chances to be the Secretary of Education. Her philosophy "that all students deserve access to a quality education" is to be admired. Thomas Jefferson would agree. So do I. However, Mrs. DeVos and I differ in that as a progressive liberal Democrat, Christian (Episcopalian), college graduate (B.A., M.A.), I spent all my years of schooling and teaching in the public arena. Much of what I learned over forty years in secondary classrooms came from being with teenagers, talking with them, learning what worked and what didn't, then later from attending their weddings, meeting their children. I still hear from them.What kids need is not some ideological concept of how education should be delivered, not a rearrangement of their daily or weekly schedules, not a new batch of tests or still another way for their teachers to be delivered. Kids need what they've always needed:__Safety__Comfort__Nutrition__Trustworthy adults__Chances to grow__Intellectual stimulation__Help in setting goals__Predictability__Teachers who know their subjects__Teachers who care about them, like themIn addition, many students need protection from abusive, neglectful parents, health and dental care, year-round supplies of meals, extra time with teachers, transportation to and from school activities. Good schools need supportive communities, legislators who take the time to learn about the schools in their districts, opportunities for students to discover what lies outside their neighborhoods.What a school needs to be successful should be our starting point. Then, bring in teachers, administrators, parents to discuss the question and find ways to answer it. Donna Anuskiewicz

sammelvin
Sun, 12/18/2016 - 12:33pm

very simple solution PAY Mothers to HOMESCHOOL there children...mine were homeschooled and at age of 16 in College!

Judith Guskin
Sun, 12/18/2016 - 10:48pm

Excellent article.Choice is not enough. We need to know what works and need to make sure parents understand the choices and outcomes. Teachers need fair salaries and support. We should spread information about good practice and outcomes to parents, educators and the general public.