Senate Bill 618, which passed 20-18 in the Michigan Senate Thursday, would among other things remove the arbitrary cap of 150 charter public schools that can be authorized by universities. During debate, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, offered an amendment that would essentially require charter schools to demonstrate student achievement 20 percent higher than the conventional public schools in the districts where charters are located.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that there is no convincing evidence to show charter public school students underperform their conventional public school counterparts, Sen. Hopgood should perhaps rework his request to make it more consistent. If he requires charter schools to do 20 percent better, shouldn't they also get 20 percent more funding? After all, the education establishment's perennial mantra is that more funding equals better education. It's also worth noting that charter public schools already spend about $2,000 less per student than conventional public schools.

The amendment failed on a voice vote, 26-12, with all senators voting along party lines. The final vote on the bill was much closer, with six Republicans* joining all 12 Democrats in the Senate to vote against expanding educational options for Michigan families, bringing to mind similar votes from a decade ago.

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*The Republicans voting "no" were Sens. Casperson, Caswell, Hansen, Jones, Kowall and Rocca.


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