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Testimony on "uncapping charters" bill 11-2-11

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MIPFS was one of only a handful of groups who had a chance to testify on Senate Bill 618 before the House Education Committee. We called for the House to defeat SB 618 or, failing that, make critical changes to the bill which would protect students and our community-governed public schools.

SB 618 would, among other things, remove the cap on charter schools. In addition, it would remove the geographical limits on charters authorized by community colleges, ISDs or school districts. The bill would also allow charter networks to create shadow school districts under one (appointed) charter school board. Not only would the bill create a huge business opportunity for private, for-profit companies, it would also exempt any property used by a charter school from property tax – the buildings are usually owned by the management companies. But buildings owned by the schools themselves or by non-profit management companies is already tax-exempt.

Given the fact that charter schools do not, on the whole, outperform similar local public schools, it is really difficult to understand why expanding charter schools is going to help our children or our state. Without rules that require charters to be high-performing, this bill simply offers an opportunity for more public dollars to flow to private investors as profit.

From our testimony:

Given Michigan’s system of school funding, every student who leaves a public school district for a charter school takes with them more money than the original district can possibly save from having one less student. This can bring on a cycle of budget cuts and enrollment drops that we have come to call the “death spiral.” This is not invigorating competition, it is simply a process of bleeding our public schools dry.

Wouldn’t those resources, and that effort, be put to better use in improving the community-governed public schools that still educate the vast majority of our children? Why not focus our efforts on providing an excellent education for all children, rather than simply providing an escape hatch for a small number of families who happen to have the resources and determination to use it?

A full printed copy of our testimony can be downloaded from the link below.

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