LANSING (AP) – A Republican-led state House committee narrowly approved a bill Wednesday that would allow more online charter schools in Michigan, a proposal sought by supporters of more educational choice but criticized by Democrats who question the schools’ track records.
The bill would raise the cap on the number of cyber charter schools allowed in the state, which is now set at two. The bill advances to the House floor.
The Republican-led Senate narrowly approved a version of the bill last year.
Michigan’s two cyber charters have a combined enrollment of roughly 1,400 students this year. Supporters of expansion say the schools have long waiting lists and parents want more opportunities to enroll.
The House Education Committee approved the expansion bill by a 10-8, mostly party-line votes. Democrats opposing the bill say there is not enough data to support lifting the cap on the number of cyber schools. Opponents said lawmakers should wait for evidence the schools, which opened in 2010-11, are effective before authorizing more of them.
Democrats also question how much money could go to the operators of cyber charters as opposed to money that would be spent directly on students.
Republicans say not allowing cyber school expansion would be going against a trend of using more technology in education and society.
The House Education Committee also voted to expand options for students to enroll in college classes while they’re still in high school. Some of those options could be expanded to private schools and home-schooled students.
The legislation includes Senate Bills 619, 621-23 and 709-10.
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