LANSING (WWJ/AP) – The Michigan Legislature has approved a bill that will allow more charter schools in the state.
The Republican-led Senate passed the measure by a 22-16 vote Thursday, sending it to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. The Republican-led House approved the bill Wednesday night..
The state now has 255 charter schools and new ones are allowed to open under certain circumstances. But the state currently has a limit of 150 charter schools authorized by public universities. The cap would be gradually lifted and end in 2015 under the legislation.
“This is a fine example of sometimes the legislative process can take a little while, like 16 years,” said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick, adding that is was former Governor John Engler who first proposed lifting the cap on charter schools in Michigan.
Supporters say more charters should be allowed to boost educational options in public schools, particularly for students now in poor-performing traditional school districts
“We’ll be giving hope to thousands of kids on waiting lists right now,” said Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican from Rochester Hills.
Democrats oppose the bill and say it appears to be an effort to help charter schools that are sometimes run by for-profit companies at the expense of other public schools. Opponents of lifting the caps on charter schools also say the plan does not provide enough oversight or do enough to ensure quality of the new schools.
Rep. Lisa Brown, a Democrat from West Bloomfield, said the bill “does nothing” to ensure all students get a quality education in Michigan.
“The education lobby is dead set against this. They do not want the competition from charter schools. They say there’s not enough quality assurances in here but the Republicans and the charter industry say we need competition in the schools, parents need to have choice,” said Skubick.
Avondale Superintendent George Heitsch is also among those opposed to the legislation.
“We do worry about a drain on the school aid fund. We already feel like we are strugging for finances as it is,” Heitsch told WWJ Newsradio 950. “This opens up a further dilution of the revenue that’s available for public schools which will impact all of us accross the state.”
The charter school proposal is one of many that supporters say would allow more choice for families attending public schools in Michigan. Other bills that Republicans are working on would let students transfer to other public schools more easily by requiring districts with space available to participate in Michigan’s “schools of choice” program. Another bill would allow a broader choice of online learning options.
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