MEA's Hyperbole About Cyber Charter Schools

The president of the state’s largest government employee union, the Michigan Education Association, recently said the for-profit education management companies that manage online charter public schools here will make “hundreds of millions of Michigan taxpayer dollars” if a bill is passed increasing the arbitrary cap on the number of students allowed to enroll.

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This claim is laughable. 

Fiscal data from the two current online charters now allowed shows the vast majority of their money is spent on instruction and instructional support to students. Teachers and instructional supplies make up the bulk of this spending. Further, audits show the management companies account for about 22 percent of what these schools spend, which includes “technology services” that don’t amount for much in most brick-and-mortar schools. 

Given the amount of spending per student by the two schools, to reach $100 million in management costs they would have to enroll a number of students equivalent to the entire Detroit Public Schools system — around 66,000. They currently enroll about 1,300.

And that would be the companies’ gross revenue, not profits, which is a tiny percentage of the total. For profits to reach the $100 million level, online charters would have to enroll more than half the public school students in Michigan. The MEA ignores the fact that the bill limits enrollment in these online schools to half that of the state's largest conventional school district. And, of course, it’s important to remember that these companies don’t make a dime unless conscientious, taxpaying parents choose to enroll their children in these schools.

It’s interesting that the MEA is so concerned about an educational choice currently available to less than 0.1 percent of all public school students in Michigan. Even if the online-schoolhouse door is unblocked for every one of the 10,000 Michigan students currently on online charter waiting lists, the schools would account for less than 1 percent of statewide public school enrollment.

This is another clear stand-off between the MEA and its public school special interest groups allies against Michigan families. The MEA and the rest would like us to believe that only they possess the knowledge to determine what's best for every child in this state. For more of that mentality, see this.