Michigan's top education official notified seven charter school authorizers Wednesday that they are no longer at risk of losing their ability to charter new schools, crediting them for improvements since he put them on notice seven months ago.
In August, Superintendent Mike Flanagan said 11 of the state's 40 authorizers were at risk of suspension. Seven — including four universities, a community college and two school districts — have since made "sufficient improvements to key factors of oversight," he said in a statement Wednesday.
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They are Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Kellogg Community College, Lake Superior State, the Macomb Intermediate School District, Muskegon Heights Public Schools and Northern Michigan.
Flanagan said the other four authorizers remain at risk. However, he said that for now, they won't be kept from chartering new schools because a new superintendent will succeed him this summer and Gov. Rick Snyder is developing a strategy for education changes, especially in Detroit's low-performing schools.
Those authorizers — Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority, Highland Park Schools and Eastern Michigan University — will continue to get help from the state Education Department on administrative and academic issues.
Flanagan's announcement last year was the first time the state warned an authorizer since it began allowing charter schools 20 years ago. A record 151,000, or 10 percent, of Michigan's $1.5 million K-12 students attend charter schools, also known as public school academies.
They are supported with public funding, cannot charge tuition and typically operate independently of local school boards.
Some charter schools are operated by nonprofits, while profit-making businesses manage more than half. A 2014 Detroit Free Press investigation concluded much of the spending takes place with little public transparency or accountability, prompting Flanagan to review chartering entities.
Jared Burkhart, director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, said it was pleased by the Education Department's move.
"However, the arbitrary nature of their process reaffirms the need for a standardized and thorough accreditation process for all charter school authorizers that Michigan authorizers are putting in place," he said in a statement.
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