The state Senate Education Committee will launch two days of hearings Tuesday focused on school choice and ways to encourage more charter academies. A Senate Republican education package would lift the statewide cap on the number of charter schools academies that can be sponsored by public universities.
The Senate GOP package would also allow more online charter schools and make it easier for parents or teachers to ask a school district to convert a traditional school to a charter.
"We hit the 150-charter cap from the universities back in 1999, so we’ve essentially been operating for over a decade under that limit," says State Senator Phil Pavlov, the chairman of the Michigan Senate Education committee, "We also know that we have about 12 thousand students on waiting lists to get into some of those charters, so we wanted to offer more opportunities."
Critics of the Republican plan say it does not do enough to ensure new charter schools will have high academic standards.
Peter Spadafore is with the Michigan Association of School Boards, which opposes the legislation in its current form.
“Just opening up the charter cap to unlimited chartering is very dangerous. We don’t how many are going to open, what kind of management companies are going to come in and run those," says Spadafore, "We’re hoping to bring in the best, but without any kind of proficiency standards and track records for success, we might be in a situation where we have 100 new charter schools and none of them are performing very well.”
The Senate GOP package goes further than the education agenda outlined in April by Governor Rick Snyder. The governor wants to open every school with an empty seat to out of district students and make it easier to open charter schools in struggling districts.