by Bruce Walker
Michigan’s charter schools are breathing a sigh of relief after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 154 a mere days before Christmas.
The bill restored nearly $35 million to the state’s charter schools that the legislature had included in its 2020 budget as part of a $240 per student increase in spending for all public schools. Whitmer initially approved the per-student increase for traditional public schools, but issued a line-item veto for public school academies, also known as charter schools.
According to the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA), Whitmer’s veto prompted more than 40,000 messages to the governor from more than 15,000 charter-school stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, students and parents.
“We’re gratified that the budget restoration has been adopted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, and we’re thankful for all of the charter school parents, teachers, principals and students who spoke out on this,” MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry said in a statement.
Whereas traditional public schools in Michigan received disbursements including the $240 per student added in October and November, charter schools received the same amount as last year. MAPSA estimates the academies were shorted $6.3 million in payments from those months.
“Children should never be used as political pawns. We’re looking forward now to working together to solve the issues that are facing students throughout the state, to make sure that every child in Michigan can receive a quality education in a quality school,” Quisenberry said.
Ballotpedia, quoting the charter school advocacy group the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), reported Michigan boasted an estimated 300 total charter schools during in the 2015-2016 school year. MLive reports the number of charter schools currently is 370. An estimated 149,100 students were enrolled in charter schools during that period, according to NAPCS, representing 10 percent of all students enrolled in Michigan’s two public school systems.
The Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information reported demographics of charter schools as 50 percent African-American; 33 percent white; 10 percent Hispanic; and 7 percent Asian, Native American or mixed race.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.