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.

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 MI Senate Passage of DPS Legislation

Please attribute the following statement to Jared Burkhart, Executive Director, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, regarding DPS Legislation approved by Michigan Senate:

“The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers applauds the Michigan Legislature for creating a solution that protects the educational choices of all children in Detroit while protecting DPS from bankruptcy. Creating an accountability system that will close failing schools, both charter and traditional, will help students gain the best education possible. Michigan authorizers will continue to work tirelessly to ensure students from every background obtain a quality education.”


Detroit Charter Schools Remain Open, Educating Children

Detroit Teacher Sick-Outs Aren’t Good For Kids

Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, discusses the DPS sick-outs (teacher strikes) and DPS reform legislation on the Frank Beckmann show. He also discusses the Charter School Board Member Lobby Day, which is taking place today in Lansing to educate lawmakers about charter schools and the authorizing process.

Charter schools deserve equal funding for special education

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press on 4/16/2016:

Rochelle Riley’s column last Sunday on charter schools and children with special needs is baseless and its key anecdote supposedly happened 20 years ago. State law prohibits discrimination of students with special needs. Around 9% of charter school students enrolled in charter schools have special needs, and many have wonderful success stories. This is not some small “unknown” number as is stated in the article. It is verified by Michigan’s Center for Education Performance and Information, the same database that holds all other educational data for the state.

In Detroit, DPS receives additional funding from the Act 18 special education millage that charters do not have access to. The Detroit Public Schools budget shows that they receive an extra $41.3 million dollars just this school year to educate special needs students. Its no wonder DPS can offer many extra programs with that kind of money. Parents have chosen charter schools for their children for a variety of reasons that are specific to their child. Charter schools in Michigan serve special needs students throughout Detroit. The key to making these programs even better is to stop discriminating against charter schools and demand that special needs students are funded equitably in Detroit.

Jared Burkhart

Executive Director, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers

Schumacher: How we keep charter schools up to par

Originally posted on The Detroit News on March 20, 2016.

Never before have parents been given more influence and flexibility to determine which education options are best suitable for their children. Before the advent of charter schools, a student’s ZIP code was the primary factor governing where they would attend school.

But now, parents have the right to choose. The demand for charter schools is at an all-time high, with nearly three million students enrolled in charter schools around the country and all but eight states with charter school laws on the books.

Basic CMYKEach state has different laws governing charter authorizers, the entities permitted to legally issue charter contracts. Authorizers set clear performance standards and are responsible for “overseeing compliance by the board of directors with the contract and all applicable law.”

Michigan’s approach has resulted in more options for parents, evidenced by the now 303 charter schools in the state educating almost 10 percent of all students. The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University became the nation’s first university authorizer more than 20 years ago and we currently authorize 62 of the state’s charter schools which serve more than 30,000 Michigan students. In the city of Detroit, nearly 6,000 students attend nine charter public schools that we authorized.

Providing choice is only valuable if it represents quality choices, something that not all authorizers have been able to adequately provide. Authorizers are the key to holding schools to high standards, by both nurturing those who deliver on their expectations and closing schools that cannot offer the quality education that students deserve. As authorizers, we must hold ourselves accountable not only to the law, but also to families and students.

While many of the state’s authorizers have already adopted and implemented nationally recognized standards and best practices, the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers sought to create a mechanism that ensures all authorizers are doing more than simply meeting their statutory responsibilities. The end result of the council’s work is an authorizer accreditation system developed in conjunction withAdvancED, one of the world’s leading accreditation organizations.

The authorizer accreditation system is an intensive program consisting of an internal self-assessment and multi-day external review where authorizers are evaluated according to current law and accepted standards. The process is designed to be rigorous to ensure that authorizers are assessed based on a complete review of all aspects of charter authorizing. The criteria by which authorizers will be evaluated include intervention in low performing schools, such as closure, ensuring quality options by prohibiting authorizer shopping, establishing a comprehensive process to ensure no conflicts of interest exist on charter public school boards, and ensuring greater transparency in operations and academics for charter public schools.

As the charter school movement continues to grow, accountability for schools and authorizers must remain a central focus. Michigan is pioneering charter authorizer accountability through accreditation. We encourage other states to follow suit and establish an accreditation system as the standard for successful charter school authorizing.

Accreditation ultimately leads to what matters most — better educational outcomes for students.

Cindy Schumacher is the executive director of the Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

Teacher 'Sickout' Protests Shut Down Almost All Detroit Public Schools

Charter Schools Remain Open

DETROIT – The largest in a series of rolling sickouts by Detroit Public School teachers nearly shut down the entire district Wednesday.

no schoolAccording to NBC News, “All but a dozen or so of the city’s 100 public schools were closed Wednesday, forcing most of the district’s 46,000 students to stay home.”

Think about that. Nearly 50,000 students didn’t get a chance to learn anything, and parents were left scrambling to find a way to take care of their children. Many of the students eat their meals at school. When they are closed, students lose that option.

Thankfully, the other half of students attending public schools in Detroit attend charter public schools. Charter school authorizers, teachers, and staff remain committed to educating their students throughout the various sickouts.

Ingrid Jacques with The Detroit News said this about the teacher strikes in her January 20 article, “No excuse for DPS teacher strikes”:

Such a widespread teacher sickout is clearly a strike, which is illegal in Michigan. Public employees are not allowed to strike, but that obviously isn’t scaring these teachers. That’s because current law makes it tedious for school administrators to prove strikes took place, as well as punish offending teachers and their unions.

Under the law, teachers can face fines or losing their job. But the law needs to be changed so that district officials can discipline striking teachers in a much more prompt fashion. Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, is working on legislation that would do just that, and he should pursue it as quickly as possible.

Teachers have given lots of reasons for striking, from support of ousted Detroit Federation of Teachers President Steve Conn to bad school conditions to the fact President Barack Obama visited Detroit Wednesday.

In the end, the reason doesn’t matter. There is no excuse to block that many children from the classroom.

These actions by teachers are another example of why conversations regarding DPS schools are failing to focus on the kids.

Too many of our children have been ill prepared for their next steps in life due to the failures of outdated systems.

Instead of keeping children away from their classrooms, we must instead focus on allowing students to access academic programs that provide them the same opportunities as students in every other city in this state and country.

Parents and their children deserve an educational system that serves them, not one that leaves them on the street. If DPS is going to let them down, we have an obligation to provide them with quality alternatives.

Letter: No sickouts for charter school teachers

All charter schools in Michigan were open Tuesday. Sadly, the doors were closed at Cass Tech High School in Detroit leaving students home coming off a recent three-week holiday break. Teachers called in sick as a form of a protest.

No sickout for charter school teachers

Cass Tech, representing the shiny success model of DPS schools and one of the largest public schools in Detroit, was dark because teachers were not concerned about meeting the needs of their students and parents. Students have to compete to attend Cass Tech. But they sat at home rather than receiving an education in the classroom. Teacher sickouts have closed numerous schools and kept students home in December.

These actions by teachers are another example of why conversations regarding DPS schools are failing to focus on the kids. Teachers had three weeks to go to Lansing and protest their grievances rather than doing it on the dime of taxpayers and the future of Detroit students.

Too many of our children have been ill prepared for their next steps in life due to the failures of outdated systems.

The focus should never be about the preservation of jobs or governance models. The focus must be on allowing students to access academic programs that give them the same opportunities as students in every other city in this state and country. Charter schools were open.

Jared Burkhart, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers

Originally appeared in The Detroit News.