Proposed Legislation Could Shut Down Top-Performing Schools in Michigan

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A proposal in the Michigan House could shut down several top-performing schools or force the transfer of their ownership because they are managed by for-profit companies.

The bill, sponsored by Kristy Pagan, D-Canton, would prohibit a public school from operating on a for-profit basis. It would not allow the schools to be contracted with a for-profit entity for the purposes of providing "comprehensive educational, administrative, management or instructional services or staff for the public school." A school still could contract with a non-profit entity.

The measure was filed despite several schools that are managed by for-profit entities having yielded impressive academic results, according to numbers provided by the MAPSA, which is Michigan’s charter school association, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

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According to the Mackinac Center, Michigan has 42 for-profit schools. Of those schools, 14 received an A on the organization’s high-school ratings, three times the expected rate. They also accounted for eight of the top 17 in the rankings.

Two for-profit charter schools also received the prestigious Blue Ribbon School award, which went out to fewer than 250 schools in 2018. Both of these schools – Achieve Charter Academy and Canton Charter Academy – are in Canton. Pagan’s district covers part of Canton.

Achieve Charter Academy and Canton Charter Academy along with two others – Plymouth Scholars Charter Academy and South Arbor Charter Academy – were the top four highest-performing schools on the statewide M-STEP test. The four were the only schools to have more than 70 percent proficiency scores in all subjects. All four are managed by the for-profit National Heritage Academies.

Three of the top eight-ranked Detroit schools based on students' likelihood to enroll in a two-year or four-year degree program after graduation were also for-profit-managed schools. The top high school for college enrollment in the state is a for-profit charter school: the Central Academy in Ann Arbor.

Additionally, four of the top 10 high schools in Detroit for average SAT scores are for-profit managed schools.

The legislation does not spell out what will happen with these schools.

Watchdog.org reached out to Pagan several times for comment about what would happen to the schools and whether their good performance is a concern, but was told that she was unavailable for an interview in time for the article, due to her schedule.

Several attempts to reach Pagan for comment were unsuccessful. A staff member said she was not available to be interviewed.