Some charter school authorizers at risk of suspension

Fallout is still being felt two months after the release of the Detroit Free Press' report on the state's charter schools. The investigative report uncovered a general lack of accountability and transparency in how charter schools spend the more than $1 billion in state taxpayer money they receive.

As a result, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced that 11 of the 40 state charter school authorizers are at risk of being suspended because of low performance and problems with contract transparency. If issues aren't addressed, they wouldn't be allowed to open new schools.

The State Board of Education (SBE) has also gotten involved by adopting legislative recommendations that would improve the operation of charter schools and provide many of the same accountability standards traditional public schools must follow.

The11 authorizers at risk are Detroit Public Schools, Eastern Michigan University, the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Highland Park Schools, Kellogg Community College, Lake Superior State University, Macomb Intermediate School District, Muskegon Heights Public Schools, and Northern Michigan University. 

The EAA is probably the most notorious of charter school authorizers. It's been in the news for its mismanagement of funding, poor academic performance, and declining student enrollment, yet Gov. Snyder and legislators still are looking to expand its authority.  State Superintendent Mike Flanagan already indicated that he was ending the state's contract with the EAA which is the overseer of 15 Detroit schools assigned to MDE's Reform and Redesign Office.

MDE used the state's Top-to-Bottom accountability list to determine which schools were in the bottom 10 percent of academic performance statewide. In addition to not meeting academic standards, some authorizers like Eastern Michigan, the EAA and Grand Valley State had schools that had problems with their 2013 financial audits. Other authorizers had problems with contracts that didn't meet state requirements for the oversight of school operations and school finance.

Each authorizer has until October 22 to take care of its problems. Those authorizers not meeting the deadline will not be able to open new schools or expand existing schools for the next year.