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Must question charter school legislation
F\Grand Haven Tribune (Opinion)
April 21, 2014
Those are two good questions to ask when assessing bills being introduced in our national and state capitals.

For instance, Michigan Senate Bill 682 reeks of politics.

The bill would cripple the charter school movement in Michigan by imposing property taxes on charter schools, prohibiting for-profit firms from managing charter schools, and prohibiting charter school authorizing bodies from creating any new schools unless students in the ones they have already chartered outperform conventional schools in the same school district by at least 20 percent.

If the operators of the two charter schools in the Tri-Cities wanted to open other schools, they would have to outperform Grand Haven and Spring Lake public schools by 20 percent. In districts with poor public schools, that may be feasible — but in an area like ours, with outstanding public schools, that becomes much more difficult.

Even in communities with excellent public schools, one size does not fit all.

The neighborhood school is not necessarily a good environment for every child. It may be too big or too small, too academically ambitious or not ambitious enough, or the peer group might be problematic.

There are plenty of reasons that parents may seek an alternative, and why shouldn't some options exist?

That said, there are great charter schools and bad charter schools, and there could probably be more government oversight. We also need to keep an eye on the “for-profit” charter schools to make sure the operators aren’t running off with the money and not putting enough back into the classrooms.

However, charter schools usually determine their own destiny — the good ones survive and the bad ones close due to lack of students.

So, why would state Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, sponsor of Senate Bill 682, throw a wrench into charter school operations?

Look at the politics and the money. Charter schools, just like public schools, receive dollars from the state for each student. Some argue charter schools are taking much-needed dollars away from public schools.

In addition, the state’s teachers’ union, the Michigan Education Association, really dislikes charters. Charter school teachers often are not MEA members and don’t pay union dues.

At election time, the MEA doles out thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates. Is this Sen. Hopgood’s way of saying thanks to the MEA and asking the union to remember him again next election?

Senate Bill 682 has been sent to committee. Hopefully, it stays there.

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