Detroit students bear the brunt of Democrats’ attack on charters


New research shows that a key component of the Democrats’ education program would deeply discriminate against thousands of Detroit students.

In the summer, the Democratic-majority US House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation to continue funding the US Department of Education. As approved, House Resolution 4502 would deny federal funding to any charter school that “contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, supervise or manage” its activities. These entities are commonly referred to as education management organizations, or EMOs.

Journalists from The Center Square noted that students at New Orleans charter schools would be particularly affected by this triumph of ideology over sound politics. The same is true of their Detroit peers, according to a new study from the University of Arkansas.

The relatively large number of Detroit charters that contract with for-profit education management organizations means that Democrat-backed actions in Washington, DC, would have a disproportionately negative impact on Motor City. Half of the 18 cities studied in this report have at least a few EMO charter schools. But none of them go beyond Detroit, where 42% of charters contract with for-profit EMOs.

Arkansas researchers found earlier that the city’s charter schools received significantly less funding than schools in the surrounding conventional district during the 2017-18 school year, despite their students’ needs. Detroit charter schools that rely on EMOs tend to have a lower financial disadvantage than those that are independent or affiliated with a nonprofit management organization. Passage of HR 4502 – the Senate has yet to consider it – would increase Detroit’s overall charter school funding gap by nearly $ 2,000 per student, researchers believe.

But their findings ignore more recent data which strongly suggests the gap has widened further. According to the National Public Education Financial Survey for 2019-2020, the Detroit Public Schools Community District reported more than $ 16,000 per student, compared to about $ 10,500 for charter schools in the city. Worse yet, the district is collecting a massive amount of federal COVID-19 relief – four times more, per student, than charters serving a similar student body.

The outcome of the Congressional Democrats’ vote would be to punish schools that rival and outperform the nation’s worst performing municipal school system. Opponents of choice of education may strongly hate seeing some public charter schools partnering with for-profit companies and then targeting them for even bigger funding cuts. But their fixation on contracts and structures neglects what schools do to help students.

In 2017, the Detroit Free Press touted a national report that, on the surface, suggested Michigan’s charter industry was underperforming due to reliance on EMOs. But a closer look at the data showed the opposite. A later study by the University of Michigan further found that the state’s largest charter school network, the National Heritage Academies, gives its students a higher education in math, compared to students of a a group of witnesses. HR 4502 would cut federal funding for these schools, seven of which are located in Michigan’s largest city.

Among the 18 cities studied by the University of Arkansas, the Detroit charter sector is more than others biased in favor of low-income students: they represent more than 90% of its registrations. The concentration is even higher in schools that depend on EMOs, making the federal proposal particularly ill-conceived.

Contempt for the unfair treatment of less privileged students, based on their family’s choice of school, is not limited to federal officials in the Democratic Party. In 2019, the Michigan government. Gretchen whitmerGretchen Whitmer Michigan Eliminates Sales Tax on Tampons, Other Menstrual Products States Should Know Current Wage Laws Benefit Unions, Not Workers Whitmer Veto Vetor ID Measures Supported by GOP PLUS has used its veto to selectively deny charter schools a formulaic funding increase, even though charters are much more likely to serve low-income students. Frustrated families today can only hope that she will rethink the decision to block a newly approved K-12 scholarship program, just as she ultimately vetoed charter funding.

There is still a chance to avoid the unfair financing plan. DC lawmakers should remove the poisoned anti-charter provision from HR 4502. No one would appreciate it more than the student families in Detroit and elsewhere who are afforded the necessary education options.

Ben DeGrow is the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute in Midland, Michigan. Follow him on twitter @bendegrow.


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