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Education

Number of charter schools in the state drops for first time ever

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The Michigan Association of Public School Academies announced Tuesday that only five new charter schools had been approved.

Dan Quisenberry is the president of MAPSA. He said there just weren’t enough quality applicants to approve.

“What you’re seeing this year is there were just not enough quality applicants to go through that process to open new schools that might have been in demand and certainly authorizers holding existing schools accountable for their performance.”

11 charter schools were closed last year through a mixture of financial difficulties, low academic performance, or low enrollment.

But Quisenberry said he doesn’t believe concerns about the performance of charter schools have led to the decline.

“I don’t believe that’s the case. Enrollment still is strong, demand is strong, public support is strong. I just truly think you have a declining K-12 population, there are people looking at the expectations saying we’re not ready yet, or maybe this is an idea that doesn’t need to be done.”

David Crim is with the Michigan Education Association, which represents teachers. He said the state has been dubbed the wild west of charter schools and the public is beginning to take notice.

“I would anticipate a continuing decline in enrollment in charter schools as parents understand that these for-profit companies don’t have their children's best interest in terms of education at heart but they do want the profits that are generated by opening these schools.”

Crim said charter authorizers take a cut from the schools they approve, which has incentivized approving bad schools.

“It’s been difficult for some authorizers, especially colleges and universities like CMU, to crack down on the charters they authorize and forgo that stream of money that they get. But year after year seeing failing schools that are attached to CMU as the authorizer has to make them uncomfortable.”

Janelle Brzezinski is with the Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, which approves public school charters. She said the approval process has always been stringent.

“So we really had those high standards both on the front end with applications and the accountability end once they would be an authorized school really since we’ve been an authorizer, which like I said we’ve been doing for 20 years now.”

Officials with MAPSA say this isn’t a sign of declining interest in charter schools.