After School Choice YES! President Gary Glenn's speech on the benefits of school choice, students recruited to carry anti-school choice sign at his talk used markers to reverse a sign's meaning and autograph it before giving it to Glenn. (School Choice YES! is promoting the Universal Tuition Tax Credit, not a voucher plan.)
The closing of two Detroit-area charter schools by the public universities that
authorized them illustrates charter schools' accountability to parents and the public, say
two officials for the universities.
Charter school critics complain that Michigan's 130-plus independent public school
academies lack proper accountability.
The closed schools, Sierra Leone Educational Outreach Academy of Detroit and Turtle
Island Learning Circle of Westland, had their operating charters revoked for the 1998-99
school year by Central Michigan University (CMU) and Oakland University, respectively.
"This was a difficult decision for CMU, as many parents were passionate and
pleased with the education their children were receiving from Sierra Leone," said Jim
Goenner, director of CMU's charter schools office. "But performance and
accountability are synonymous with charter schools. As professionals we must accept no
CMU chartered Sierra Leone in 1995, but suspended the school's charter when plans to
move into a new facility did not materialize. When the school failed to provide critical
financial information to CMU, the university prevented the academy from opening for the
1998 school year. "As the authorizing agency, we must hold the schools we license
accountable both financially and academically," said Goenner.
Sierra Leone officials are exploring their legal options for reopening the school.
Turtle Island opened in 1997 under the authorization of Oakland University. On June 30,
the university's 14-member board revoked the school's charter, saying that what Turtle
Island agreed to do in its charter was inconsistent with what was happening in the school.
"The curriculum and practice were different," said Angie Melhado, coordinator of
urban partnerships and public school academies at Oakland University.
Melhado said that the university attempted to rectify the discrepancies, but after
months of working with the school, the university decided that the best course of action
was to revoke Turtle Island's charter.
"I attended almost every school board meeting, visited the school multiple times, an
average of once per week, provided feedback, and involved colleagues, but we just couldn't
work things out," Melhado told MER. "So, for the benefit of the children
involved, the university decided to revoke Turtle Island's charter."
Critics question the accountability of charter schools, which operate free from some of
the bureaucracy that often paralyzes traditional public schools.
"The charters do not have the accountability of an elected board," said Herb
Moyer, former public school superintendent and current member of the Michigan State Board
of Education, in a Detroit News story on charter schools.
Goenner and Melhado point out that both Central Michigan and Oakland Universities hold
the schools they license very accountable.
"The failure of Sierra Leone and Turtle Island should serve to silence those
critics who claim state universities are merely 'charter school mills,'" said
Melhado. "We hold the schools we license accountable and have demonstrated that we
are willing to stand up and be counted when a school fails to do what it said it would