State warns charter authorizers of suspension

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state superintendent is cracking down on charter schools.

Monday, Mike Flanagan put 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers on notice that they could be suspended. If suspended, the public universities, community colleges and school districts couldn’t open more charter schools. Their current schools could stay open.

Flanagan said the authorizers are deficient in transparency, accountability and fiscal governance.

“Some of them don’t have processes in place to watch those things and make sure the schools they’re chartering are spending the money wisely,” Flanagan told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview Monday evening.

Four of the providers put on notice of possible suspension are in West Michigan. Among them is Grand Valley State University, which has 61 schools and more than 32,000 students.

“We were surprised to see ourselves on the list,” Dr. Tim Wood, the special assistant to the president for charter schools at GVSU, said during a Monday press conference following Flanagan’s announcement.

GVSU’s website boasts its top ranking, saying it was the top authorizer in the state in 2013.

“The reason it’s different from last year is that they have some schools that are being measured this year that weren’t measured last year,” Flanagan said.

The authorizers on Flanagan’s list are labeled as being in the bottom 10% academically. Flanagan said the state looked at the average of all the authorizers’ schools.

Ferris State University, Kellogg Community College and Muskegon Heights Public Schools are also on the superintendent’s warning list.

And Flanagan says that should matter to all of us.

“Overall, I think the fact that as a state we spend about a billion dollars on kids that are in charter schools, we need to have accountability,” Flanagan said.

GVSU says it is anxious to work with the state.

But the head of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a group that represents authorizers, wasn’t so cordial.

Dan Quisenberry said the report is “a random, ‘back of the napkin’ measurement concept introduced today for the very first time that confuses the issue, misleads the media, ignores the law and aims to appease partisan motivations.”

Flanagan said he disagrees with that assessment and is acting within the law.

Also at risk of suspension: Eastern Michigan University, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, and school districts in Detroit and Highland Park.

Authorizers at risk of suspension have until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies. Flanagan will decide in November whether to suspend them. He said he won’t if they are improving.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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