This is an unusually slow year for new charter schools, according to the state charter association, which says the seven charters opening this fall are “among the fewest in history.”
“Only six schools opened last year,” the Michigan Association of Public Schools Academies said in its release today. “That was the fewest since 2008, when seven schools opened under the charter cap. (The cap on university-authorized schools was lifted by the Legislature and Governor Snyder in 2011.)”
Meanwhile, six charter schools closed last year, including Allen Academy in Detroit, which was shut down for poor academic performance. Another charter school merged boards, so there will still be 300 charter schools statewide overall.
“It always responds to need, and we didn’t see as much of that this year, and didn’t see as many people wanting to apply to try to address the needs,” says Dan Quisenberry, president of MAPSA.
As for concerns about low-performing charters, Quisenberry says the closure of some charters last year proves the system is working.
“The idea behind any school is to improve the outcomes for kids,” he says. “When that’s not happening, changes need to be made. And you do see authorizers acting not only to close schools, but most times it’s intervening to change strategy. But at some point, you just have to acknowledge, hey, this isn’t working.”
Three of the new charter schools opening this year are cyber schools: PACE, the “Paris Academy of Co-Secondary Education,” will be a “standalone cyber charter schools serving grades K-12” in Genesee County.
And near Cadillac, another K12.com school is opening: Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan, which will offer grades K-8.
And there’s Livingston Classical Academy in Whitmore Lake, which offers a curriculum designed by Hillsdale College’s charter school initiative. There are 13 of these Hillsdale-based “classical schools” around the country, but this is the first to open in Michigan.
There’s been a lot of controversy in the Brighton area about this new charter school, with critics alleging it’s a religious school that promotes right-wing ideology – a claim the schools administrators refute, including in this op-ed for the Livingston Daily.
It will start out offering a “blended learning experience,” which the school’s website defines as a “cyber school that requires seat time. Students must travel to the building where the seat time is required.” Electronic devices will be offered, but neither hot lunch nor bus service will be available.
Meanwhile, Susie Schlehuber says she’s starting the first publicly funded Montessori school in the eastern U.P.
“We didn’t have an extensive advertising campaign,” she says. “It was mostly word of mouth, and we opened a Facebook page.”
Schlehuber says she previously ran a non-profit tutoring organization in the area, and started seeing a lot of kids who needed help.
“Students who struggled in a traditional setting went to us for help and support to be successful in the classroom. Their struggles had nothing to do with IQ or ability to learn, it was just the way they learned. So based on that information, and parent requests, we started to consider a Montessori school.
“We knew that in our economic area, the tuition between like $15,000 and $20,000 would not be an option. So it needed to be a charter.”
This year, Schlehuber says Lake Superior Academy will have about 45 students in grades K-3.