The story in this week’s New York Times on charter schools in Michigan represents advocacy journalism at its most biased and inflammatory. Not only does the story blatantly misstate many of the facts about Michigan’s charter public school sector and the institutions that authorize them, it also willfully takes the entire story out of context, misrepresenting the broader picture of school improvement and growth statewide.

Charter schools are an important piece of a very large, coherent policy framework for boosting K–12 results in Michigan. Charters are subject to all the same laws, rules and regulations as any other public school, and are overseen not just by the same entities that govern all Michigan schools, but by an added layer of accountability: the authorizer.

This added accountability drives results. The top 3 high schools in the state, according to US News and World Report, are charter schools. A Stanford study found that students in charter schools in Detroit gain 3 months more academic growth than their peers per year. Charter schools also performed better on average on the state M-Step test than their traditional school counterparts.

These are facts that did not serve the agenda of the writer or publisher of this article.  They are, however, facts that are important to parents, students and policy makers, and if the author had been interested in fairness and accuracy as opposed to advocacy, would have been included in his piece.


From Jared Burkhart, Executive Director

Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers

The consequences for failing our students

There is an expression that rings true throughout the entire world. It is that actions have consequences. What you do, or fail to do, today will impact your tomorrow. Students who don’t study will fail classes. Employees who don’t work will face repercussions at work.

How can we know this? We know it because that is how the world works. You take a test, you earn the consequences of your performance. Students across the globe understand and work with it every day. So do adults and businesses, only the stakes are typically much higher.

Now, evidently, a group of Michigan schools have decided they — and they alone — are exempt from the rules that govern not just their own students, but the rest of the world. And worse still, they have talked many of our state’s policy leaders into agreeing with them.

When the state’s School Reform Office, prompted by state and federal accountability policies, began to take action against chronically low-performing schools, those schools filed a lawsuit. They argued anything they could to deflect attention from their own failure and avoid the consequences.

Now those schools have reached a settlement with state leaders, who — as in years past, through various iterations of statute and accountability — are willing to let them off the hook. What does this mean?

It likely means future generations of Michigan students are going to be failed by their schools. They will graduate unprepared for college, career, or life. Local employers will struggle to find the skilled, educated workers they need. Regional economies will be harmed.


Because state and local leaders are unwilling to take action and do what’s right.

Within the Michigan charter school sector, we have done right when needed. When one of our schools has been identified by its authorizers as a chronic underperformer, our authorizers have taken action to intervene, and then — if necessary — close the school. Charter closure has happened 103 times during the past 25 years. These are hard choices, but we are committed to ensuring Michigan students continue to be educated, whatever it takes.

The real irony here is that it is Michigan’s charter sector is routinely accused of lacking accountability. In truth, we are the ONLY truly accountable K–12 school structure currently operating in the state. Everyone else up and down the state’s traditional accountability structure is playing games, filing lawsuits, and negotiating in support of continued failure.

As authorizers, we call foul.

This unwillingness to change, this failure to perform on behalf of Michigan’s children, absolutely must stop. And today’s policy leaders must stop engaging this level of failure, or face unimaginable economic and social consequences in the future.

For the recurring nightmare for too many generations of Michigan students is happening again. And this time there appears to be no waking from it.

SRO Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               Contact: Jared Burkhart

Jul. 18, 2017                                                                                        517-487-4848



From Jared Burkhart, Executive Director

Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers


“Yesterday it was announced that low-performing Michigan schools facing SRO action may be close to reaching a negotiated legal settlement with the state.

“This is another clear and costly evasion of school accountability, and represents a shocking disservice to the state’s taxpayers. Instead of actually holding low-performing schools accountable for failing their students, the Governor has rolled over to those who have used valuable time and money to sue the state instead of educating children.

“While traditional schools—and the institutions that oversee them—seek to evade clear statutory accountability measures, Michigan authorizers will continue to be the only entities in the state with the fortitude to enact meaningful consequences for schools that fail their students.”

# # #

Members of the Michigan Authorizers seek to advance public school choice and accountability by supporting high-quality oversight and serving as a unified voice for authorizers across Michigan.

Statement On National Education Association Charter Schools Policy Position

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               Contact: Jared Burkhart

July 5, 2017                                                                                         517-487-4848




From Jared Burkhart, Executive Director

Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers


The National Education Association has issued a new policy position on charter public schools. While many of their imaginings have no basis in reality, most are dangerous to students and families who want to exercise their freedom to choose the type of education where they will learn and grow.

“We recognize the NEA’s head fake towards a commitment to school accountability. We presume a true commitment towards accountability for all schools will ultimately lead the Michigan Education Association to reverse its position and back the state’s proposed A–F school accountability model. True accountability is essential as we seek to improve student outcomes in every educational institution in Michigan.

“Most troubling to us, however, is the presumption that non-district authorizers lack the ability to hold the schools they charter accountable for results. This assertion fails to understand the work being done here in Michigan, where our universities, community colleges and ISDs are overseen by publicly-appointed boards and held accountable through annual legislative appropriations. What’s more, Michigan university authorizers have led the way in reconstituting or closing public schools that fail to perform, whereas many low-performing traditional schools overseen by local boards are left open to fail Michigan students year after year. In fact, of the 38 schools identified by the state as chronically low performing schools 2 NEA schools have sued the state to stay open. At the same time the one charter school authorized by a statewide authorizer on the list has been closed.

“We look forward to engaging in the necessary job of educating students in the months and years ahead, and are eager to see union leaders do the same instead of creating political campaign talking points.”

# # #


Members of the Michigan Authorizers seek to advance public school choice and accountability by supporting high-quality oversight and serving as a unified voice for authorizers across Michigan.

Ferris State University Charter Schools Office Accepting Applications

The Ferris State University Charter Schools Office (CSO) is accepting applications for a public school academy, Part 6a, or Strict Discipline Academy as per the Revised School Code.

Applicants are asked to e-mail the CSO at to request an application packet. Please include:
– Applicant Name
– Applicant Contact Info
– Applicant E-mail Address
– Proposed Academy Name

A read-only version of the application packet is available on the CSO website: Contact Sue Lewis with questions about the application process at (231) 591-5802 or e-mail

The Ferris State University Charter Schools Office is not yet accredited and therefore cannot authorize academies in the city of Detroit.

Statement from Executive Director Jared Burkhart on Governor Snyder’s 2017 Recommended Budget


From Jared Burkhart, Executive Director
Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers

“Michigan Authorizers support educational choices. Students and parents in every corner of our state—regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status—should have choices to pursue the learning opportunities that best fit their needs.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget proposal focuses more on institutions than on the kids they serve. Some learners perform better in an online setting, using a framework that delivers instruction virtually.

We look forward to working with the Michigan Legislature to create a system that allows children to go to school any time, any place, any way, any pace. Quality instruction must be valued the same regardless of how it is delivered.”

Sandy Kress: What’s At the Heart of the Anti-Charter Movement?

anti-charter protestCharter school myths continue to need to be refuted. This article by Sandy Kress on tackles many of them:

There has been quite a lot of discussion recently about the sudden spate of stories in the established media that are unusually and unreasonably critical of charter schools. Some try to explain what’s driving these stories. Is it that charters, like all public schools, have problems, and all such problems should be reported? Or, is it, as I think, mostly that educrats have cranked up their PR machines to create false images to tarnish charter schools because high quality alternative school options threaten control by the “lodge” of the traditional system?

If these recent articles had been more balanced, conceding the extraordinary achievement of high quality charters while exposing problems among others, I might feel differently. But no such distinction was attempted: “bad” was sought throughout, even in the good, and generally bad was reported, whether real or not.

To get a sense of what lies at the bottom of all this propagandistic “reporting,” I engaged in a back and forth in a recent Facebook exchange with an advocate of the anti-charter line to better understand the opposition. While I concede this is but one exchange about differences on the topic, I believe this account of charges and responses is reflective of the battle that is being waged and worth examining.

Charge #1: The attack began with the assertion that it is a matter of Republican philosophy that charter schools are a panacea for all education issues.

Response #1: I responded that no one believes that charters are a panacea for all education issues. Yet, it is significantly Democrats, including President Obama, both of his Education Secretaries, a multitude of Democratic citizens, parents, teachers, and funders, and even those who prepared the current draft of the next Democratic Platform, who have joined many Republicans in supporting high quality charters.

Charge #2: Charter schools seek out and enroll the best kids, which is why some appear to do better.

Response #2: Most charters use a lottery system that prevents cherry picking. Plus, high quality charters generally show significant gains for the students who enroll, as measured against their own past achievement in previous schools.

Charge #3: Charters fail miserably by not teaching the arts.

Response #3: One of the great things about charters is that citizens, teachers, and parents have the flexibility to create greater differentiation in school offerings. If parents and school founders want more band, orchestra, arts, etc., they can create a charter that places special emphasis in these areas.

Charge #4: Charters steal good kids away from traditional schools.

Response #4: No one is stealing anyone from anywhere. Parents are choosing among public schools, when they’re given a choice. They’re making a choice based on where they believe their children can get the best education.

Charge #5: Parents are only (or primarily) choosing charters because charter advocates are telling them how amazing charters are.

Response #5: It’s presumptuous and wrong to think that parents who make the choice of a charter do so for any other reason than others do for their children. They pick based on what they legitimately think is in their child’s best interest.

Charge #6: You always talk about successful charters but never successful traditional schools.

Response #6: I am always happy to talk about success in public schools and frequently do so. In fact, I’ll be posting soon on successful public schools in Austin (whose success, by the way, is too little recognized by the system itself!).

Charge #7: Charter school success reminds me of taking vitamins and thinking you’re healthier though the vitamins had nothing to do with the success.

Response #7: How do you explain the voluminous data that have been provided showing generally not only strong overall achievement but also significant academic growth over time for the students who enroll in high quality charter schools?

Charge #8: Is it possible that this improvement is due to the fact that these students have been removed from an environment with poorly performing students?

Response #8: I don’t like the idea of poorly performing students anywhere and have worked for almost three decades to change that in the public schools. But are you saying parents ought not be able to seek out other public schools where their children might have a better chance at success?

Charge #9: Students who do not participate in debate, the arts, and other activities are not as successful as those who do.

Response #9: That may or may not be so, but, again, shouldn’t parents, not charter opponents, be able to decide what public school alternative is best for their children?

Charge #10: Let me show you some website “stories” that show that some people are making a lot of money off of charters. 

Response #10: Let me show you who are operating/funding those websites. Then let’s get back to the issues relating to what’s best for children and their parents and the facts demonstrating clearly the positive and promising results in high quality, non-profit charters.

It’s obvious charter school success has struck a nerve in a good part of the public school establishment. At the very time educrats have had success in reducing the pressure of accountability, parents are increasingly inclined to move their children to more effective, high quality public charter schools.

Whether accountability and increased funding for traditional schools will be restored is unclear and in doubt at this time. What’s not in doubt is that funders, citizens, teachers, and parents are sprouting high quality charter schools like beautiful flowers all over the landscape. Bless them with even greater and speedier success in doing so!

Source: What’s At the Heart of the Anti-Charter Movement? – Sandy Kress | Weebly

Michigan charter school success based on concept of family

Burton Glen Charter Academy has a board member by the name of Rev. Mary Covington, who everyone should get to know. 

Rev. Covington is a founding board member of the school, which she actually helped start in the basement of her church! After 17 years, she will be retiring from the board and moving to Georgia in August to live with her daughter.

She is truly a wonderful woman and it is easy to see why she has meant so much to the Burton Glen family. 

We recently spoke with Rev. Covington about her time at Burton Glen Charter Academy, below is that conversation:

Mary Covington_quoteMCCSA: When did you get involved with the charter school movement?

COVINGTON: I began in the charter school movement in 1999.

MCCSA: How do you feel the school and charter movement has changed or evolved since inception?

COVINGTON: The thing that absolutely amazes me are the resources that we are now able to give the children. When we started we didn’t have that many. Now we have social workers on staff. Kinda an outreach attitude where they reach out to the families in case of distress and the community cooperates with us in so many ways. For instance, during the Flint Water Crisis so much water was donated to the school that they had to take over one of the rooms where ordinarily the parents meet and the board meets and just stock water. Then they had to go buy a dolly so they could move the water to the parents cars.

We’ve had good cooperation with the credit union in the area because we are teaching our kids how to use money. Many, many little things that are just wonderful about our school.

MCCSA: School culture is critically important to a school’s success. What is the culture like at Burton Glen Charter Academy?

COVINGTON: We’ve been building this idea that we are a family. A little more than a year ago, a student of ours was killed and we pitched in and did the funeral so-to-speak. Donation to the family for a funeral spot. Burton Glen pitched in with food every day and visitation. We were at the funeral and didn’t forget about them afterwards.

One of the things that we started when I was president of the board for 8th grade graduation was that our graduates wear caps and gowns. Unfortunately, some of our students may not end up wearing a cap and gown in high school but at least they have this experience that can motivate them to wanting to graduate from high school. When they have their caps and gowns on they are so purdy!

But, as they walk across they introduce themselves and most times they tell you what they plan to be when they graduate from college and many times they even tell you what college they plan to attend. I think that is tremendous for an 8th grader. I’m not sure I knew that when I was in the 8th grade.

MCCSA: What do you feel were your three most important roles as a board member?

COVINGTON: Most important… I don’t know if there was a most important. First of all, coming from my background as an administrator in state government, my first thing was to watch the money. So before every meeting, I look at the agenda and I look at the budget and look to where the money went to. Now I’m not the treasurer, but it helps having all hands on deck so to speak.

The second thing is what our administrator needs in order to better serve our students.

And then of course when our board attorney comes, we listen to her about the legal ramifications regarding what is going on with charter schools or the State of Michigan’s new regulations. So it is a many faceted thing. It’s like putting an umbrella up. An umbrella has more than one rib to it. You need all of that for coverage.

MCCSA: Did you have much interaction with the school’s authorizer?

COVINGTON: We have had a very good relationship with Northern Michigan University, which is our chartering university. I love ‘em!

MCCSA: What role did they play in the success of the school?

COVINGTON: We’ve been able to start a visit Northern camp. We send our kids by bus to visit Northern Michigan University to experience college life. It’s usually during a break during the college calendar, but at least the kids get to visit the campus, meet some of the faculty, and begin to understand what going to college is about. And that they are being encouraged from that end, our chartering university.

And of course the trip up is beautiful.

MCCSA: What is your favorite memory from your time at Burton Glen?

COVINGTON: That would be hard to do. I love that school. For me to be leaving that board is quite an emotional experience for me. I would say it is probably the graduations because this is looking at a finished product so-to-speak as far as our school is concerned being K-8, 720 students. It is incredibly gratifying.

Just to know that I have made a difference in one child’s life because I do believe that charter schools give such a quality education to the student. When I look around the education sector in Michigan, particularly in the right hand side of the state, I am enthused about what we are doing.

I came through the Detroit Public School system when they educated students and they didn’t have all this brouhaha that we are having now. Perhaps that’s a sign of growth — the brouhaha. But, I just think charter schools are quietly doing it better. Our challenge of course in many cases are the students who come to us later in the schooling life — like 6th, 7th, 8th grade — who have been in other school cultures and they have to be re-cultured by us because they aren’t used to how we do things in our charter school. We have disciplinary problems.

Statement by MCCSA Executive Director Jared Burkhart regarding Adequacy Study

Please attribute the following statement to Jared Burkhart, Executive Director, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, regarding Adequacy Study:

“The funding study released today shows the long standing position of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers that there should be more equity between the highest funded and lowest funded students. We will continue to work with the legislature to continue to close the public school funding gap to ensure every student is provided with the same funding allowance.

It is very encouraging to see that longstanding programs that charter schools have used to further academic success are now being embraced by this report. Successful academic strategies such as allowing special education students to participate in general education classes and extending the school day have been a staple in charter schools for many years. This study proves that innovative programs that have been perfected within the charter school setting increases the educational opportunities for students while getting the most out of taxpayer funding.

However, the study fails to obtain the broad perspective of all public schools. Charter schools continue to provide more educational opportunities with less funding. The state must recognize the unjust burden placed upon some public schools when per pupil funds must be stretched to cover building costs in charter schools.  This study shows that by following the innovative thinking that charter schools have put in place for the past 20 years, all schools can provide quality opportunities within the current funding structure.”