Monday, July 18, 2016

Rapid Charter Expansion Is Primary Cause of Detroit Schools’ Fiscal Catastrophe | janresseger

Rapid Charter Expansion Is Primary Cause of Detroit Schools’ Fiscal Catastrophe | janresseger:

Rapid Charter Expansion Is Primary Cause of Detroit Schools’ Fiscal Catastrophe


Here is how David Arnsen of Michigan State University and his colleagues frame one of the issues they investigate in a new study on the impact of rapid growth of charters on the fiscal conditions in school districts in the state of Michigan.  The study will be published this autumn in the Journal of Education Finance:  “Thus far, the state has appointed emergency managers in three school districts (Detroit, Muskegon Heights, Highland Park), has dissolved two school districts (Inkster and Saginaw Buena Vista) and established consent decrees in one (Pontiac)… All except Inkster experienced large declines in enrollment between 2002 and 2012.  Compared to districts statewide, all six of these districts experienced much higher loss of resident students to charter schools and higher shares of special education students.”
The researchers conclude: “(T)he deficit districts in which the state intervened were significantly different from deficit districts in which it did not intervene on each of the demographic characteristics examined.  They had significantly higher shares of African American students (86% versus 40%), and significantly higher shares of low-income students (85% versus 67%).  Districts in which the state intervened also had significantly higher charter penetration (29% versus 11%) of resident students.”
The authors caution that their findings about Michigan may not perfectly apply in other states due to Michigan’s method of funding schools.  Michigan reformed its school funding in 1994 to shift funding responsibility primarily to the state; most states instead  balance state and local responsibility for raising revenue.  And Michigan’s system allows students transferring to a charter or to another school district through inter-district public school choice to carry all of their financing with them. However, due to fixed costs and laws that protect services for particular students, school districts are unable quickly to achieve economies of scale to compensate for declining enrollment.
Even when emergency managers have imposed austerity by raising class sizes and eliminating elective courses, Michigan’s most vulnerable school districts have, due to school choice, faced financial ruin.  The near bankruptcy of the Detroit Public Schools, for example, has occurred during years’ of state imposed austerity by a succession of emergency fiscal managers: “(T)he grounds for this emergency intervention under state law are strictly Rapid Charter Expansion Is Primary Cause of Detroit Schools’ Fiscal Catastrophe | janresseger:

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