MIDLAND – The demise of the charter school bill December 30 in the Senate provides a unique opportunity for the incoming Granholm administration to take road developer Robert Thompson up on his pledge of $200 million for 15 new charter schools in Detroit, and strike a blow for the children of Michigan’s largest city.

Thompson has made the foundation grant pledge contingent on the legislature approving 15 new charter schools in Detroit, and the state Senate was called into the emergency session today to consider the offer. The bill failed the Senate by a vote of 18-12, with 20 needed for passage.

Detroit needs more educational options now because of the low performance of current Detroit Public School students on standardized tests. According to the Standard & Poors School Evaluation Service, Detroit Public School students are achieving far less than the state average on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests, the official state assessment. While statewide some 50 percent of all MEAP tests were passed in 2001, only 30 percent of all MEAP tests in Detroit were passed.

"With some 70 percent of charter schools in Detroit having waiting lists and academic achievement so low, Detroit’s children clearly need more educational options. Bob Thompson’s offer of $200 million would have been an excellent way to leverage private money for educating public school students. Let’s hope the next legislature and the new governor take him up on his offer next year," said Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research institute in Midland.