Michigan School Board Deadlocked Over Charter Expansion

Courtney Williams's picture
Thursday, October 13, 2011

An unusually divided state Board of Education couldn't agree Tuesday on how to advise the Michigan Legislature on a package of bills that would allow an unlimited number of charter schools to open statewide, among other changes.

The typically agreeable board's inability to come to a consensus leaves Michigan Department of Education officials to figure out how to provide feedback to lawmakers on the nine-bill package making its way through the Legislature.

The board's legislative committee last week submitted a draft open letter that issued a set of recommendations lawmakers should consider before passing the bills. The draft letter offered general support for expansion of effective public school options.

But the school board could not agree on a final official letter, even one that watered down the language. Two attempts -- including one 4-4 vote -- during a lengthy discussion at Tuesday's monthly meeting couldn't result in a compromise.

The nine-bill Senate package would lift the cap on the number of charter schools that could open, allow parents and teachers to vote to convert failing schools into charters and allow open enrollment statewide.

Board members Marianne Yared McGuire, Kathleen Straus and Casandra Ulbrich, all Democrats, either strongly opposed lifting the cap or said the state must change the way charter schools are governed. All three voted to reject the letter.

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