In education, results are what matter

Nov 17, 2013 by

With the cap on charter schools lifted in Michigan, the pressure from teachers unions and others in the education establishment is rising against the for-profit management companies that operate many of the charters. But the evidence strongly suggests those fears are unfounded.

Sound bites saying schools shouldn’t profit off Michigan’s children often aren’t grounded in reality. Monitoring the performance of charter schools, which are an alternative form of public schools, is essential. But all public schools deserve the same level of attention.

Currently, nearly 300 charter schools operate in Michigan, serving around 119,000 students. That’s only 7 percent of the student population. Even with the cap lifted on charters, that percentage isn’t likely to jump significantly.

The Democratic-controlled State Board of Education recently asked for several studies, closely examining the performance of charter schools in Michigan.

One looked at charter authorizers — usually state universities — and another examined the outcomes associated with the education management organizations running charters.

Charter school boards contract with these companies for a range of services, including facility and personnel management, payroll and accounting, curriculum and professional development.

Some of them handle all services at a school, including leasing the building to the charter board. This spring, the state board released a statement outlining some of its concerns about these management companies “serving as both the operator of a school with control over that school’s budget, as well as the landlord.”

Board members were worried this “may result in unusually high profit margins” for the management companies and their real-estate holding arms, at the expense of instruction,” according to the statement.

The subsequent report from Michigan State University’s education researchers was never publicly released, nor is it available on the Department of Education’s website. The Detroit News obtained a copy, however.

via In education, results are what matter.

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