The Michigan Civil Rights Commission, tasked with rooting out discrimination in the state, has in effect called for the discrimination against 150,000 charter school students by saying they should be funded less than other public school children. It’s hard to miss the irony.
In a report released earlier this fall, “Education Equity in Michigan,” the commission made some valid recommendations, but it also jumped on the charter-bashing bandwagon.
The most alarming advice the report offers is that the state change its school funding model and cut support for charter school students by 25 percent. The idea is to bolster the budgets of traditional public schools that have lost students to neighboring charters. Yet charter schools already receive about 20 percent less funding than their counterparts as they don’t get any state funding for their facilities.
There are about 300 charter schools in Michigan, a number that has stayed fairly constant in recent years. They serve 10 percent of students in the state, and the majority of those who attend are minorities from low-income households. About half of the children in Detroit and Flint attend these schools.
Students attend charter schools because their parents have chosen them for a variety of reasons, from academics to safety.
While teachers unions may love the report, which reads a lot like their own anti-choice rhetoric, the Civil Rights Commission has gotten a lot of pushback from charter leaders and parents.
To the commission’s credit, in response to some of the negative feedback, members offered the charter community a chance to present its case at a Nov. 23 meeting.
Jalen Rose, the sports commentator and former NBA player, is the founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit. He was extremely displeased with the report.
He wrote a piece for these pages laying out his concerns, and he also submitted a video presentation to the commissioners.
“Under no circumstance can we survive getting 25 percent less of our budget,” Rose told the commission. “What would you tell our scholars, our young people, when they find out that you consider them three-fourths of a person?”
It’s not just civil rights commissioners who are favorable to this change. A member of the State Board of Education also chimed in with her support to funding charter students less. At the same meeting last month, Pamela Pugh, vice president of the 6-2 Democratic-controlled state board, said the commission should stick with its call to “stabilize” funding for public schools.
In the end, only one commissioner, Jeff Sakwa, made a motion to strip the recommendation to cut charter funding by a fourth. It didn’t pass, but the members did decide to “study” how charters and traditional schools spend their funding.
Luckily, this suggestion to slash funding isn’t going to gain traction in a GOP-controlled Legislature. But it’s part of a growing movement in Michigan — and nationally — to undermine charter schools.
— THE DETROIT NEWS