Flanagan: Charter schools must be accountable

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Charter school authorizers in Michigan are facing scrutiny from the state for the first time in their 20-year history.

Monday, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan placed 11 authorizers on notice of possible suspension, saying they are deficient in transparency, accountability and fiscal governance.

Flanagan told 24 Hour News 8 that it was a “legitimate criticism” that nothing had been done about charter authorizers before now.

“I think an argument could be made I should have thought about this a year or two ago, but we’re doing it now,” he said. “I have very limited authority, really. It’s just that you can’t do any new charters. The real issue is going to be is there new legislation needed.”

Flanagan said he started talking with charter schools about more accountability in February.

He said an evaluation based on an authorizer’s entire portfolio — all the students from all the schools put together — put the institutions on his list in the bottom 10% of the state’s 40 authorizers.

Flanagan said he is working with the authorizers to come up with longer term goals, including showing improvement as a factor.

“If you’re in the bottom 10% but I can see in good conscience as state superintendent that they’re making progress, then they’re fine,” said Flanagan.

Charter school advocates told 24 Hour News 8 they were blindsided by Flanagan’s announcement.

“Understanding the criteria, why they’re there, what your expectations are and goals are will help change behavior, that’s really what we want. It’s not about punishing people. It’s about making sure we really are driving towards the outcomes we’re looking for in Michigan,” said Daniel Quisenberry, the president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

He said that charter schools support holding authorizers accountable.

Several districts on the list, including Muskegon Heights, were taken over and run by the state.

24 Hour News 8 asked Flanagan if the fact that Detroit Public Schools, the state-run Education Achievement Authority, Muskegon Heights and Highland Park Schools are all on his suspension notice list indicates the state should not be taking over and running districts.

“Well, I mean, you could draw different conclusions,” Flanagan said. “I’d leave that to your viewers.”

The superintendent will decide after Oct. 22 if the schools on the list will be suspended from expanding. If a suspension goes into effect, it will be valid for one year.

If an authorizer is suspended, the schools that are already open would remain operational.

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