charter schools

The Old Mission Peninsula School will have new leadership starting this fall. The elementary school will no longer be a part of Traverse City Area Public Schools; it will become a public charter school authorized by Grand Valley State University.

Dena Schweitzer has been named Director of Academics there. She has worked as a speech pathologist in local public schools for more than 25 years. 

There’s a bill going through the state legislature right now that would require traditional public schools to share money raised by regional enhancement millages with charters.

Senate Bill 0574 was passed by the Senate last week after it was introduced by Representative David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, in September.

The bill has caused a lot of controversy and complicated the ongoing debate about charter schools in Michigan.

So what would the bill change, and how would it affect schools?

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S Department of Education went before the Senate education committee yesterday for her confirmation hearing.

Senators asked many questions of Betsy DeVos – some about her Michigan family’s donations of millions of dollars to Republican candidates, others about whether she would mandate that public schools become charter or private schools.

Yet, it was an exchange between Minnesota Senator Al Franken and DeVos that caught our attention.

Proponents of publicly funded, privately run charter schools hail them as the way to keep public schools and public school teachers "on their toes" by creating competition. 

Here in Michigan we have roughly 145,000 students in more than 300 charter schools, according to Education Trust Midwest.

And a report that group released earlier this year showed that charter school enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year consisted of disproportionately minority and low-income students. 

Peter Payette

The founder of a charter school in Traverse City is back in federal court next week. A judge will sentence Steven Ingersoll for up to five years for his recent convictions of tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Those crimes had to do with his financial dealings in Bay City.

The hearing is also raising questions about whether Ingersoll abused his power when he was running Grand Traverse Academy. When he cut ties with the school, he owed the public academy $1.6 million dollars.

Peter Payette

Grand Traverse Academy officials says school founder Steven Ingersoll owes the school $1.6 million dollars. Ingersoll was convicted of tax fraud in March but the federal government did not charge him with taking the money.

There's wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school.

Peter Payette

Grand Traverse Academy founder Steven Ingersoll has been found guilty of tax fraud. A federal jury acquitted Ingersoll of wire fraud – a charge that carries a more severe penalty. Ingersoll evaded taxes by moving money between business and personal bank accounts.

MLive reporter Cole Waterman has been following the trial in Bay City for a month. He says Ingersoll and the other defendants heard the verdict at about 12:30 Tuesday afternoon.

"None of the defendants seemed to react in any overt way," said Waterman. "They were all pretty stoic.”

Opponents of charter schools are failing to make effective arguments for their position against them, while proponents are creating a stronger consensus for them finds a study conducted by Michigan State University professors Sarah Reckhow and Matt Grossman, along with University of Rochester PhD student Benjamin Evans.

The Michigan Department of Education has called it the most serious federal criminal case involving a Michigan charter school since the state gave the green light to charter schools in 1994.

Traverse City optometrist Steven Ingersoll will go on trial tomorrow on seven criminal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion.

Peter Payette

The man who owes $1.6 million to a Traverse City charter school goes on trial this week in federal court. One state lawmaker called Steven Ingersoll the “poster child” for problems with charter schools in Michigan.

But his financial dealings with Grand Traverse Academy will not be at the center of this month’s trial. In fact, whether the missing money was actually stolen might not even be an issue that gets discussed.

Michigan testing scores are treading water. Ron French and Chastity Pratt Dawsey of Bridge Magazine traveled across the country to study states that are getting education right. They say they discovered what it will take to pull Michigan's schools out of the mire of middling-to-poor student achievement.

Stopping in both red and blue states –  Massachusetts, Tennessee, Florida, and Minnesota – French and Pratt worked to avoided bias. 

While Massachusetts is widely known as the gold standard in education, the reporters found that Minnesota, a mid-western state comparable to Michigan, ranks No. 1 in math scores and in the top 10 in every other category.

Ten years ago, Florida and Tennessee scored lower than Michigan. In the last decade, both have ascended in the ranks and surpassed Michigan.

Peter Payette

One of northern Michigan’s most successful charter schools is trying to move on from a controversy that has stretched over the summer.

Officials at Grand Traverse Academy decided last week that they will not go after the founder of the school for $1.6 million -- or at least not now.

A financial debacle has cast a shadow over the school which has grown steadily since opening in 2000. It now has around 1,200 students. That makes it nearly as large as nearby class B school districts like Kingsley or Elk Rapids.

A group of institutions that oversee Michigan charter schools has come up with a system it says will lead to better oversight.

It’s a voluntary accreditation system that would judge authorizers based on things like transparency and efforts to turn around failing schools.

The authorizers would also shut down any charters that “consistently” rank in the bottom five percent of Michigan schools.

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction met behind closed doors Monday with some of Michigan’s largest charter school authorizers. The meeting was intended to review the rules that are supposed to ensure charter academies are doing what they’re supposed to do.

It’s the first of two meetings this week with the entities that are supposed to hold charter schools accountable. There are very few details about what happened at this private gathering with representatives of universities, community colleges, and other charter authorizers. 

It's no secret that Detroit schools have been failing their students for a long time.

In 2009 Detroit's public schools racked up the worst scores in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, and the scores haven't really improved since then.

Charter schools were launched to offer Detroit parents a choice. But my next guest believes the unregulated environment for charter schools has wound up hurting the kids who most need help and a sound education.

Robin Lake is director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington in Seattle.  She recently visited Detroit and came away with some unsettling views of the condition of Detroit's charter schools.