Ten things you probably didn’t know about Michigan charter schools

Buddy Moorehouse
Sep 6, 2023 8:51:54 AM

You might know Jack, but do you know charter schools? You do now! Here are Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Michigan Charter Schools:1

1. Charter schools are free, public and open to all.

As public schools, charter schools are free. Totally free. And unlike some traditional schools that limit their enrollment, charter schools are open to all. If you live anywhere in Michigan, you can send your children to any Michigan charter school that fits your needs. By law, charter schools much accept every student that applies.

2. Charter schools have public boards.

A lot of people don’t realize that like all public schools, charter schools have public boards made up of community members and leaders. They’re responsible for the oversight of the school (academically, financially and in every other way) and their meetings are always open to the public.

3. Rosa Parks once tried to open a charter school in Detroit.

The civil rights icon, who lived in Detroit, knew that education was the only way to give young people a better life. So back in 1997, Parks tried to open a charter school in Detroit, to be called the Raymond and Rosa Parks School for Self-Development. “We will include not only the youngsters, but the parents and the adults, as well,” Parks told a reporter at the time. “I am really looking forward to the many good things to be done with our youth, because as you know, we have to be very careful with our young people.”

Sadly, the anti-charter politics of the day got in the way, and the school was never allowed to open. You can read the full story here.

4. Half the children in Detroit and Flint attend charter schools.

Statewide, about 10.5 percent of all children attend a charter school. But in Detroit and Flint, that number is about 50 percent. Parents, families and students in Detroit LOVE having a charter school option.

5. President Bill Clinton once gave a speech at the Michigan Capitol calling for more charter schools.

Clinton, a Democrat, was president when charter schools first came on the scene in the early 1990s. On March 6, 1997, he came to the Michigan State Capitol to deliver a speech on education, and in it, he called for a tenfold increase in the number of charter schools by the year 2000. Proof positive that charter schools were a totally bipartisan effort. You can see that part of his speech here.

6. The only school in Michigan that’s named for Barack Obama is a charter school.

Speaking of presidents, there’s only one school in Michigan that’s named for Barack Obama – and it’s a charter school. The Barack Obama Leadership Academy is located in Detroit.

7. One Michigan charter school is located in the Central Time Zone.

While the majority of Michigan lies in the Eastern Time Zone, a lot of people don’t know that there are four counties in the Western Upper Peninsula that are in the Central Time Zone – Gogebic, Iron, Dickinson and Menominee. And there’s a charter school in one of them!

Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy is a tribal charter school outside of Escanaba in Menominee County. And here’s the interesting thing about their Central Time Zone status – because they have a lot of families in the Eastern Time Zone, too, the school operates on EST. They say it’s a little confusing to some families at first, but everybody gets used to it.

8. There’s a charter school located at an airport – and it has its own planes.

West Michigan Aviation Academy, one of the highest-performing high schools in the state, is located at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. True to its name, the school is focused on aviation and engineering, and along those lines, the school has raised enough money to buy three of its own airplanes. Students can get their pilot’s license as part of their studies at WMAA – one of the only public schools in the country where that’s possible.

9. Polling shows that Michigan voters of every political persuasion overwhelmingly favor charter schools.

While politicians might bicker about charter schools from time to time, voters are unanimous in their support. A poll taken in early 2022 showed that Democrats, Republicans and Independents all gave strong support to charters – and their support is growing. Among Independents, support jumped 16 percentage points from the last time the poll was taken. The poll also showed strong support among every racial group.

10. There’s a charter school located inside the Henry Ford in Dearborn.

Talk about hands-on learning! Located in Dearborn, the Henry Ford is considered one of the greatest history museums in the country, along with neighboring Greenfield Village. And located right inside the Henry Ford is a charter school – Henry Ford Academy. Students at that school don’t just learn about history; they live it. When they study the civil rights movement, they’re able to walk out of their classroom doors, go a few feet and see the actual bus that Rosa Parks rode in Birmingham, Alabama.

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