Skip to main content

State Board of Education Approves Measure to Increase Charter School Transparency

LANSING – The State Board of Education has approved a resolution calling upon lawmakers to pass legislation that will make Michigan charter school finances more transparent.

Board members acted because they have become increasingly concerned with efforts nationally to privatize public education and shift move governance of schools from local communities to private and appointed boards, religious organizations, and for-profit corporations and nonprofits.

“Charter schools are technically public schools, so they should be expected to follow the same regulations regarding transparency as all public schools are required to follow,” said board member Dr. Mitchell Robinson, who introduced the resolution.

The vote came at Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting.

“Our public schools are a vital part of our local communities,” said Dr. Pamela Pugh, president of the State Board of Education. “They should be governed by the people and not by outside groups that too often don’t support open government. Michigan spends more than a billion dollars annually on charter schools. Taxpayers must know how these dollars are being spent. Just as importantly, community members should be able to fully participate in important discussions and decisions that affect their public schools – including charter schools.”

Charter schools – also known as public school academies – are publicly funded schools that are separate from the traditional public school system. The schools receive charters from outside authorizing bodies that allow them to operate as public schools. Authorizers appoint charter school boards, a structure that contrasts with board members from traditional public school districts who are elected by local voters.

“Parents should be able to choose whether they want their children educated in traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, or parochial schools, or at home,” said State Superintendent Michael F. Rice. “However, charter schools, like traditional public schools, are publicly funded and should operate in an open and transparent fashion with the involvement of their local communities.”

The resolution says the large number of charter schools in Michigan is a threat to democratically governed community-based schools. There are 285 charter school districts in Michigan responsible for 363 charter schools.

The resolution calls for legislation that would include provisions requiring:

  • Review by the Michigan Department of Education for approval or denial of applications of new, replicating, or expanding charter schools after consultation with the local district in which the charter will operate.
  • Transformation of for-profit charter management organizations to nonprofit charter management organizations within the state.
  • Full and complete transparency in all financial matters related to revenues and expenditures for charter management companies.
  • Charter schools to comply with the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
  • Publication of detailed management contracts and detailed educational management organization expenditures by function on the charter schools’ websites.
  • Charter schools and their management companies to follow all bidding laws and regulations.
  • Prohibition of students from being excluded from attending a charter school, discouraged from enrolling in a charter school, or encouraged to disenroll based on behavior, academic achievement, disability, English-language proficiency, family status, or living situation.
  • The prohibition of charter schools from refusing transfer students during the school year if the charter schools have available space.
  • Strong encouragement that all charter school teaching and administrative staff increasingly hold certificates instead of short-term permits and that employees who are working while holding temporary or emergency permits are encouraged to become fully certified.

Previously, the State Board of Education in June 2021 voted to have the MDE draft Freedom of Information Act requests of a cross section of charter schools and education management organizations. The purpose was to determine to what extent charter schools and their education management organizations were held to the same standards of transparency as traditional public school districts. MDE found that 12 of 166 charter schools that were sent the requests didn’t respond, while all 112 traditional public school districts that were sent the request responded. MDE also found that financial data for most charter schools consisted primarily of purchased services and did not permit the same level of analysis and understanding as the financial data for traditional public school districts.

In December 2022, the board approved an earlier resolution calling for legislative action requiring financial transparency for charter schools based on the findings from the Freedom of Information Act requests.

# # #

Media Contact: