Michigan Legislative Dems Push Back on Online Charter Schools

The annual state budget process is underway, and with it, the annual debate about how to fund schools.

In 2011, the state legislature opened Michigan up to the expansion of online charter schools, or cyber schools. These schools have a miserable success rate — when it comes to academics — but a fabulous success rate when it comes to taking away our state dollars to run their for-profit schools.

Up to now, Michigan Republicans have marched in virtual lock step when it comes to giving these cyber schools as many public dollars as possible. They’ve given these organizations the same per-pupil dollars as traditional schools get, even though cyber schools have no buildings to maintain, no bus fleets, no libraries and fewer teachers than traditional schools, or even brick-and-mortar charter schools.

That may be changing. In this year’s budget recommendation, Gov. Rick Snyder called for a smaller increase to cyber school funding than for other kinds of schools.

And that sounds great to state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Meridian Township).

Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr adds, “it’s common sense. It costs less to run an online school than a bricks and mortar school.”

Of course, many Republicans can be expected to fight this tooth-and-nail. The charter school industry is heavily backed by Betsy DeVos and her family, who also pump millions of dollars into Republican candidates here and around the nation. Still, one of the state’s loudest voices for the for-profit school industry, Gary Naeyaert, ran into some trouble of his own making this week, so who knows how that may develop.

More information will unfold as the budget process wears on.

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