FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vice President of Communications
Michigan’s Charter School Law Turns 20; Gov. Engler Says, ‘It’s Gratifying to See the Dream Has Become a Reality’
LANSING, Michigan (January 14, 2014) – Michigan is celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the state’s charter school legislation today, an event that opened the door to public school choice in the state.
Gov. John Engler signed the legislation that allowed charter schools to be created in Michigan on Jan. 14, 1994. The state’s first nine charter schools opened in the fall of 1994.
Twenty years later, there are now 298 charter schools in the state, educating more than 140,000 students – about 9 percent of the state’s school-age population.
“We had high hopes and expectations when the charter school law was signed 20 years ago, and it’s gratifying to see that the dream we had on Jan. 14, 1994, has become a reality,” Engler said today. “Parents deserve a quality choice when it comes to their child’s education, and charter schools have provided that choice. In the past 20 years, Michigan’s charter schools have shown that innovation and accountability will lead to improved student achievement.
“We've come a long way in the past 20 years, but there's still much work to be done. Every child in Michigan deserves a quality education in a quality school, and we can’t rest until we’ve reached that goal.”
At a press conference this morning sponsored by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA), former state Sen. Dick Posthumus, a Republican who sponsored the charter school bill in Michigan back in 1993, explained the intent of the original legislation.
“My goal was really simple: Provide the opportunity particularly for low-income kids to have another option in education,” Posthumus said. “And also to encourage innovation. Competition improves everybody. It’s truly an American concept. Choice, freedom and competition have been the lifeblood of this country, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be the case in public education, too.”
Ember Reichgott Junge, a Democratic former Minnesota state senator who authored the country’s first charter school legislation back in 1991, offered a national perspective on the charter school movement.
“Chartering has been supported by every presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992,” Reichgott Junge said. “Today, 2.3 million students attend over 6,000 chartered schools in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Over one million names are on waiting lists. Chartering is supported by nearly 70 percent of the American public, and in Michigan, you have even more support – 82 percent. I’ve always been grateful to Gov. John Engler for championing charter school legislation in Michigan. We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s a lot of work still to be done. We need more equitable funding for charter schools and their facilities.”
Dan Quisenberry, the president of MAPSA since 1997, pointed out some of the innovative schools that were made possible by Engler’s actions 20 years ago today.
“You’ve got schools like Washtenaw Technical Middle College in Ann Arbor, which has an innovative five-year program that lets students graduate with a high school diploma and a college degree at the same time,” Quisenberry said. “You’ve got schools like Black River Public School in Holland, which doesn’t let students graduate until they’re ready for college and keeps those expectations high. Schools like Cornerstone Charter Health High School in Detroit, which has an innovative partnership with the Detroit Medical Center, giving students a head start on a career in the health field. All of those schools came about thanks to what Gov. Engler did 20 years ago today.”
The Michigan Association of Public School Academies advances quality education through choice and innovation. MAPSA has been the unified voice of the public charter school movement in Michigan since 1996. MAPSA represents more than 140,000 students, 6,000 teachers, dozens of authorizers and more than 50 education service providers working in 298 public charter schools in the state. MAPSA assists the state’s public charter schools in their mission to deliver achievement, choice and accountability through advocacy, communications, technical assistance and professional development services. For additional information, please visit www.charterschools.org.