Education Funding

Detroit May Get More Charter Schools, Backers Say

By Karla Scoon Reid — October 15, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A Michigan philanthropist’s decision to withdraw his offer to invest $200 million in Detroit may not end the fight over charter schools in the city.

The heated political standoff sparked by Bob Thompson’s plan to build 15 charter schools in Detroit served as a reminder to charter proponents, philanthropists, and foundations of the challenges that can arise in working with public school systems.

A legislative deal that would have cleared the way for the “Thompson schools,” while raising the statewide cap on the number of university-chartered schools, fell apart last month. That proposal prompted teacher protests in Lansing that forced Detroit’s 157,000-student school system to cancel classes for a day. (“Proposal for Charter Schools Roils Detroit, Oct. 8, 2003.)

But Michigan lawmakers already had passed legislation to make the donation possible, without increasing the number of charters granted statewide. And on Oct. 2, state Attorney General Michael Cox ruled that the charter bill had become law, because Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, had not vetoed it.

That same day, Mr. Thompson bowed out, sensing that the decision would heighten divisions in Detroit.

“I am disappointed and saddened by the anger and hostility that has greeted our proposal,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement. “The proposal was meant to be for kids and not against anyone or any institution,” he said.

While Mr. Thompson’s offer of millions has vanished, others may come forward to run the Detroit charter high schools, because the law did not specifically refer to the philanthropist, said Dan Quisenberry, the president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. The Lansing-based group represents most of the state’s 201 charter schools.

“You don’t get that far under that much controversy without people needing this and wanting this,” he said, referring to charter schools, which are public but largely independent schools.

However, a state senator last week filed a lawsuit to block the new law.

The Detroit debacle likely will provide ammunition to both sides in the rhetorical wars over charter schools, said Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and a supporter of charter schools.

Unions will recognize the power they possess to stall charter school efforts, he said, while proponents will point to the extremes critics will go to limit school choice.

Detroit’s charter school dispute also represents another example of the frustrations of working with school systems, which are government entities and therefore political, said William Porter, the executive director of Grantmakers for Education, a national network of charitable groups in Portland, Ore.

Funders must find a way to work effectively with school leaders and the community, he observed.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding What America Spends on K-12: The Latest Federal Snapshot
About 93 percent of K-12 spending came from state and local sources in 2019-20—but more-recent year totals will reflect federal relief aid.
2 min read
Education Funding Opinion How You Can Avoid Missing Out on COVID Relief Money
We’re losing the race against the clock to spend ESSER funds, but there are solutions.
Erin Covington
3 min read
Illustration of cash dangling from line and hand trying to grasp it.
F. Sheehan for Education Week/Getty
Education Funding K-12 Infrastructure Is Broken. Here's Biden's Newest Plan to Help Fix It
School districts will, among other things, be able to apply for $500 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants for HVAC improvements.
2 min read
Image of an excavator in front of a school building.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Less Funding, Less Representation: What a Historic Undercount of Latinos Means for Schools
Experts point to wide-ranging implications, including how much federal funding schools with large Latino populations will get.
3 min read
Classroom with Latino boy.
Prostock-Studio/Getty