There’s some good news in regards to charter schools to report for both Grand Rapids and Detroit.
For some quick background – state laws define a “first class” school district, which only Detroit Public Schools qualifies for. This special status allows Detroit’s school system some privileges in terms of funding, but also the state school code limits the types of charter schools that can operate in Detroit only to those chartered by public universities. As our readers may know, the number of university-chartered schools is capped at 150 statewide. However, a few other entities are able to issue charters as well, and that includes community colleges, intermediate school districts, and regular school districts. One of the privileges of “first class” status that Detroit Public Schools has enjoyed is a prohibition on any schools chartered by community colleges, intermediate school districts, and school districts. However, this is about to change.
The definition, in the school code, of “first class” district is any district that has over 100,000 students. However, because of the exodus of students out of DPS, the enrollment is expected to drop below 100,000 this year, meaning that community colleges, such as Bay Mills, will be able to finally open more charters in Detroit.
There was some confusion with the budget that was just passed for schools. At first it looked like the budget changed the definition of “first class” district in all state laws. The budget did change the definition of “first class” district to any district over 60,000 students, but that change in the law only applies to the School Aid Act, and not the school code. According to the Michigan Association of Public School Academies:
The newly defined “first class school district”, at over 60,000 students, effects only those provisions of the school aid act. At the same time, first class district provisions within the school code — including chartering options for community colleges — remains defined as a district with 100,000 students. Also, a provision that Detroit Public Schools can stop other traditional school districts from operation within the city limits was stripped from the bill.
This means that, finally, more charter schools can operate in Detroit (soon). More students will finally have a choice, other than being stuck in perhaps the worst school district in the nation.
In another bit of good news, Grand Rapids is getting its first general-education charter high school. Grand River Prepatory High School will open up this fall. It will be operated by National Heritage Academies and is an extension of Excel Charter Academy. Excel’s eight grade students will get enrollment preference, but the enrollment process is open to all ninth-grade level students. The charter school detractors always harp on organizations like National Heritage for not operating high schools, but that’s about to change. Hopefully this will not be the only charter high school in Grand Rapids. The parents of GR deserve to have more choices. Well, they are already choosing – to leave Grand Rapids. Maybe more charter schools in the City would retain young couples with school-age children. Yes yes, I know, the new High School isn’t inside the city limits of Grand Rapids, but it’s a good start.