The Wayne State University charter public school, opened this academic year, illustrates a concept the state should dramatically expand. More than 5,000 applied for 330 spots – strong evidence of a desire, particular in the inner city, for change and new options. It is vitally necessary to free up the supply side of public education, both to enhance competition and to create new opportunities for children in their respective neighborhoods. Inner city parents want choice, but they do not want to have their children on buses to the suburbs. Charter public schools can help meet the need.
Charter public schools, as defined by the U. S. Department of Education, are "publicly-sponsored autonomous schools, substantially deregulated and free of direct administrative control by the government," but held accountable for achieving results in student performance. They may be initiated by teachers, administrators, parents, other public educational institutions such as universities, community and non-profit organizations, or even private businesses. The Mackinac Center favors an expansive view of possible initiators of charter public schools because removing as many barriers to entry as possible is the best way to replace monopoly with opportunity.
Charter public schools should be eligible to accept the same publicly-funded education certificates referred to above, and be established under state law according to basic, minimal and objective criteria.
The latter point – basic, minimal and objective criteria – is a critical element; other states have erred in their charter school plans by being overly-restrictive, creating a scheme for excessive micromanagement, or granting veto power to existing school districts. Indeed, their operation as substantially unregulated institutions could prove to be a model for deregulation of other, existing public schools.
Chartering authorities could include local school boards, intermediate school district boards, the State Board of Education, the Legislature, or other public entities. In any event, new charter schools should not have to locate within the geographic boundaries of their chartering authority.
Conversion of Existing Schools.
There should be minimal barriers for existing public schools to convert to charter school status.