If you’re a parent whose child is thriving at a Michigan charter school, you’re no doubt thankful that someone had the vision and passion to open that school.
There’s also a good chance, though, that you take for granted the fact that you’re able to have that choice in the first place. Won’t charter schools always exist in Michigan? Haven’t the enemies of school choice come to the realization that charter schools will always be part of the educational landscape?
History tells us that no, that hasn’t happened and it won’t happen. From the beginning, the teachers unions and other defenders of the status quo have fought tooth and nail to prevent charter schools from opening and expanding.
All about the money
Like most things in life, the fight to keep Michigan charter schools from surviving is all about the money. Michigan funds students – not schools or systems – and when a student moves from one school to another, the state funding moves with him or her.
Charter opponents want to make sure the equity gap – the gap in state funding between charter schools and higher-funded traditional schools – remains as large as possible. Michgian charter schools receive thousands of dollars less per pupil in state funding, and charter opponents want to keep it that way.
That’s all the more reason that Michigan charter school parents need to be aware of what’s happening, and speak out about the unfairness of the equity gap.
A history of opposing charter schools
To know what we’re up against as Michigan charter school parents – and to realize that the enemies of our schools will never stop – it’s helpful to know some history. Here’s a brief look back at some of the efforts that have take place in Michigan to stop charter schools.
In 1994 – the year the first Michigan charter schools opened in Michigan – a group of charter school opponents led by the Michigan Education Association filed suit against charter schools, saying they were unconstitutional. Three years later, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against the MEA. The MEA lost that lawsuit. Michigan charter school opponents were not done attacking charter schools.
In 2001, the MEA sued again, attempting to stop Bay Mills Community College from authorizing charter schools. And again, the MEA lost in court.
Charter school moratorium proposed
In September of 2014, just days after accepting a large campaign donation from the MEA, State Rep. Sarah Roberts introduced a bill that would prohibit any new charter schools from opening in Michigan.
Actually, the legislation would have done much more than that; because it prohibited authorizers from signing any new contacts with a charter school, every school in the state would have had to close down once their current contract was up.
The legislation never made it to a vote, though.
The moral of the story? Charter school parents can never take their choice and their school for granted. The enemies of charter schools and choice will continue to look for legal and legislative ways to eliminate your schools.
MAPSA will never let down our guard, and we urge parents to do the same.