State Superintendent Mike Flanagan Says A Thing: Doing Anything Remains To Be Seen
Tuesday , 8, July 2014
UPDATE: Mike Flanagan announced he will retire when his contract ends in 2015. Another reason it’s vitally important that Mark Schauer is our next governor.
In the days since the Detroit Free Press published their eight-day series on charter schools in Michigan, the talk in the state has been how to make charter schools more accountable to the parents of the students they’re supposed to teach, and also to the taxpayers of Michigan who they’re not supposed to rip off. State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan issued a statement on July 7with a laundry list of items he wants the state school board to implement on charter schools to hold authorizers accountable. These measures have the appearance of taking away the all-reaching power of the management company, the primary source of the mismanagement in charter schools, and giving it to the charter school board. The only bad thing about this is often members of the board are closely associated with the owners and employees of the management company, as is the case with Grand Traverse Academy and their current and former management companies.
- Clearly identify the school governing board as the party ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the school, and clearly define the external provider as a vendor of services;
- Prohibit the management company from selecting, approving, employing, compensating, or serving as school governing board members. In Michigan, management companies are allowed to recruit board members and are free to hire friends and relatives of board members without disclosing that information;
(That means you, Grand Traverse Academy. The Detroit Free Press exposed this as being very wide spread among state charter schools)
- Require the school governing board to directly select, retain and compensate the school attorney, accountant and audit firm. In Michigan, management companies can and often do perform this function;
- Require that payments from the authorizer to the school go to an account controlled by the school governing board, not the management company. Michigan already requires this, but management companies can and do immediately move the money out of the board-managed account;
(Steve Ingersoll routinely helped himself to charter school money in “advance payments”)
- Require all instructional materials, furnishings, and equipment purchased or developed with public funds to be the property of the school, not the management company;
(What about Steve Ingersoll’s schools, which all have full optometry clinics in them? Will they be the property of the school too?)
- Condition charter approval on authorizer review and approval of the management contract;
- Grant charter school renewals only to those that have achieved the standards and targets stated in the charter contract; are organizationally and fiscally viable; and have been faithful to the terms of the contract and applicable law;
- Clearly communicate to schools the criteria for charter revocation, renewal, and non-renewal decisions that are consistent with the charter contract;
- Require evidence of a management company’s educational and management success;
(If this is actually enforced, things could get very interesting)
- Require a proposed agreement with a management company to include performance evaluation measures, fee structures, financial controls, oversight and disclosure, and renewal and termination details;
(The fact that this is something only now being considered should make lots of Michigan taxpayers really angry.)
- Require a management company to disclose and explain any existing or potential conflicts of interest between the charter school governing board and proposed service provider or any affiliated business entities;
(provisions like this make me hopeful that the MDE is paying attention to Steven Ingersoll, family and close friends)
If Flanagan and the MDE really make good on enforcing these provisions, it would be a good thing for the state. Unfortunately, Flanagan must understand that big and powerful people like Betsy and Dick DeVos don’t want this to happen and have plenty of money to make sure it doesn’t. Don’t be surprised if there’s rumblings about appointing a new state superintendent in the near future.