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Monday, August 11, 2014

AT RISK OF SUSPENSION: Flanagan Takes Charter Authorizers To School

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced today that the Department of Education has placed nearly 28 percent of Michigan's charter school authorizers in "At Risk of Suspension" status. 






The school authorizers who were placed in "At Risk of Suspension" are:

    -Detroit Public Schools
    -Education Achievement Authority
    -Eastern Michigan University
    -Ferris State University
    -Grand Valley State University
    -Highland Park Schools
    -Kellogg Community College
    -Lake Superior State University
    -Macomb Intermediate School District
    -Muskegon Heights Public Schools
    -Northern Michigan University



Flanagan said that a recent series of news articles raised enough questions regarding the appropriate oversight by charter school authorizers that he wants to prevent those that do not measure up from contracting new charter schools. 

And Miss Fortune likes to think Department of Education staffers have also been reading this blog, with its extensive revelations of monkey business at both the Bay City Academy and the Grand Traverse Academy.

Flanagan has directed staff at the Michigan Department of Education to establish rigorous principles that measure the transparency, academic, and financial practices of the charter schools of each authorizer. The result of these measures will determine which authorizers would lose their chartering capabilities.

“We are getting serious about quality choices for Michigan students,” Flanagan said. “This is not just about getting academic results. It is about total transparency and accountability.”

Flanagan received a series of letters last week from Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, where Richmond outlined the principles and practices that define quality charter school authorizing.

Included in those principles and practices are that authorizers should:

-Clearly identify the school governing board as the party ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the school, and clearly define the external provider as a vendor of services;

-Prohibit the management company from selecting, approving, employing, compensating, or serving as school governing board members. In Michigan, management companies are allowed to recruit board members and are free to hire friends and relatives of board members without disclosing that information;

-Require the school governing board to directly select, retain and compensate the school attorney, accountant and audit firm. In Michigan, management companies can and often do perform this function;

-Require that payments from the authorizer to the school go to an account controlled by the school governing board, not the management company. Michigan already requires this, but management companies can and do immediately move the money out of the board-managed account;

-Require all instructional materials, furnishings, and equipment purchased or developed with public funds to be the property of the school, not the management company;

-Condition charter approval on authorizer review and approval of the management contract;

-Grant charter school renewals only to those that have achieved the standards and targets stated in the charter contract; are organizationally and fiscally viable; and have been faithful to the terms of the contract and applicable law;

-Clearly communicate to schools the criteria for charter revocation, renewal, and non-renewal decisions that are consistent with the charter contract;

-Require evidence of a management company’s educational and management success;

-Require a proposed agreement with a management company to include performance evaluation measures, fee structures, financial controls, oversight and disclosure, and renewal and termination details;

-Require a management company to disclose and explain any existing or potential conflicts of interest between the charter school governing board and proposed service provider or any affiliated business entities.
 

-Require evidence of a management company’s educational and management success;

-Require a proposed agreement with a management company to include performance evaluation measures, fee structures, financial controls, oversight and disclosure, and renewal and termination details;

-Require a management company to disclose and explain any existing or potential conflicts of interest between the charter school governing board and proposed service provider or any affiliated business entities.

THE "T" WORD: TRANSPARENCY

Flanagan stepped up today as he'd warned on July 7 in a press release, alerting Michigan's charter school authorizers that he would be exercising his statutory authority to end their ability to authorize future charter schools – something he'd had the power to do but had never done during his nine years in the job.

Flanagan said today the authorizers are deficient in transparency, accountability and fiscal governance, and their schools as a whole rank in the bottom 10 percent academically. After kicking it old school on the authorizers, about the only thing Flanagan didn't do was let loose with a pack of "maternal insults"—also known as "your mama" jokes.
 
Authorizers at risk of suspension have until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies. Flanagan will decide in November whether to suspend them.


If suspended, the public universities, community colleges and school districts couldn't open more charter schools. Their current schools could stay open.

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