It was 30 years ago – Oct. 5, 1993 – that Gov. John Engler first pitched the idea of having public charter schools in Michigan.
In a speech before a joint session of the Michigan Legislature that day, Gov. Engler outlined his bold vision for K-12 education in the state. He touched on a number of subjects and then got to the heart of it all: It was time to end the monopoly that traditional school districts had on educating children. It was time to put parents and families in control and bring public school choice to Michigan.
Engler recognized that some school districts might not want to open their doors to children from outside their area (something which is still true today), so he proposed that Michigan adopt a new concept that several other states had already adopted: public charter schools.
“Seven other states have them and they have the potential of revolutionizing the way public education is delivered to our children,” Gov. Engler said. “With charter schools, you get away from the one-size-fits-all mentality that is imposed; the deadening uniformity and all too often mediocrity on so many of our public schools. Ladies and gentlemen let's tear down the Berlin Wall of separation that has held kids hostage to one school district. It's time to tear down the wall. Our families want their freedom and they want it now.”
Later that year, the Legislature adopted the legislation that created charter schools and in January of 1994, Gov. Engler signed it into law. Less that nine months later, in the fall of 1994, the first nine charter schools opened in Michigan.
This fall, there are nearly 300 charter schools in the state, educating more than 150,000 students. Michigan’s charter schools are leading the way when it comes to achievement, innovation and accountability.
And it all began with a speech 30 years ago. Click here to see what Gov. Engler had to say on Oct. 5, 1993.