Parents will have more school choice opportunities in Michigan this year, The Detroit News reports. Authorizers approved 32 new charters since the beginning of 2013 and all of them are scheduled to open their doors to students this fall.
Among schools that will begin operating in September will be three cyber academies and three schools using blended learning techniques rather than traditional classroom-style teaching.
The majority of the charters – which are publicly funded but are operated independently of the local school district – will be located in urban areas where traditional public schools have chronically underperformed. Among the cities welcoming new charters this fall are Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids.
Suburbs such as Waterford Township, Warren, Pontiac and Hazel Park are getting new schools, said officials with the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a charter school association.
Novi, Beverly Hills, Oxford, Center Line and Garden City are all getting their first charter schools.
In Beverly Hills, where most students attend the high-performing Birmingham School District, the Nexus Academy of Royal Oak will open. The academy is a high school that offers a blended-learning approach, combining classroom and online instruction and is chartered by Central Michigan University.
Another innovative charter called Oakland FlexTech Academy will open its doors in Novi, one of the highest performing districts in the state, and will likewise offer blended learning opportunities and flexible schedule for students who are involved in extra-curricular activities such a sports or work.
Currently 276 charter schools are operating in Michigan, enrolling about 131,000 children — about 8% of the total student population in the state. Although Governor Rick Snyder said that the small number of new approvals should quiet critics who are worried that charters are opening at an unsustainable rate, thus making it harder for regulators to make sure that only high quality schools are operating, those who oppose the expansion aren’t mollified.
Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust, said the group has asked the Legislature to restrict low-performing operators from expanding or opening new schools in Michigan until they raise the performance of their existing schools.
“There are some high performers and some abysmal performers,” Arellano said of the list of new schools.
“Our authorizers have to be more honest with the operators they use and whether they should expand. We need an accountability system that applies to authorizers.”