Michigan Charter School Growth Modest Since Limits Lifted In 2011

Opponents predicted a charter ‘in every neighborhood’

In 2011, when the Michigan Legislature lifted a cap on the number of public charter schools in the state, one commenter on an MLive article said the act would put “a charter school in every neighborhood.”

That fear was shared by the anti-charter school movement.

In October 2011, legislators were debating Senate Bill 618, which would phase out the cap. While that happened, charter school critic and Michigan State University professor David Arsen co-wrote an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press. In it, Arsen claimed the bill would “create hundreds of new schools.”

But the explosion of new charter schools that Arsen and others feared never took place. Over the past five years, some new charters have opened and others have closed. But the overall number of public school academies has declined.

There were 256 charter schools in the 2011-12 school year before Senate Bill 618 became law. That number increased to 277 in 2012-13 and jumped to 298 in 2013-14. Since then, however, charter school growth has leveled off.

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There were 302 charter schools in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2016-17, there were 300.

This year, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies said there are 294 charter schools. This means that only 38 more charter schools are open today than was the case when the state enacted a law to phase out the cap.

Five new charter schools opened in 2017-18, but another 11 closed.


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