Charter School Group Warns State Superintendent

A decision to suspend charter authorizers not within the law

Image courtesy of MIRS.

Last week the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers sent a letter to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction challenging his authority to suspend charter public school authorizers without first going through the formal rule making process prescribed by the state's Administrative Procedures Act.

Charter school advocates said they are expecting Superintendent Michael Flanagan to act sometime this week to suspend charter school authorizers from opening additional charter schools due to poor academic performance.

Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, said they were reviewing the Nov. 5 letter and would respond within the 90 days allowed by law. Ackley wouldn’t comment on when Flanagan would make his announcement on possibly suspending charter school authorizers.

The Nov. 5 letter to Flanagan states, “You have the statutory authority to adopt administrative rules for the suspension process, but instead you have decided to proceed without utilizing the powers bestowed of your office under existing law.”

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The authorizers - primarily state universities - claim that Flanagan held a meeting on Oct. 28 describing changes to the way authorizers would be evaluated, including “unveiling a new growth metric never used before by the MDE."

Their letter states: "Individual authorizers had little time to evaluate if this is an accurate measure for accountability purposes. There are also additional concerns that any process created can be arbitrarily changed by your successor at any time. Any set of standards used to make high stakes decisions such as suspending a public educational body’s rights under law need to be transparent and not arbitrarily altered.”

Richard McLellan, an attorney and a member of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s board of directors, said in August that Flanagan could face legal actions if he suspended the charter school authorizers because his “methodology have not been established in administrative rules.”

"He clearly has the authority," McLellan said in a Nov. 10 email to Michigan Capitol Confidential. "Whether he processes the decision correctly is a question. So far, I do not agree with their handling of it."

Ackley said in August that Flanagan was not acting outside of his authority.

Jared Burkhart, spokesman for the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, said they haven't ruled out legal action if Flanagan were to suspend the authorizers without going through a rules-making process.

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