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Michigan charter schools group sues U.S. Department of Education

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A Michigan charter school group is pushing back against new rules from the U.S. Department of Education.

In a lawsuit, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) argues the new criteria would keep charter organizations from receiving grant funding.

Attorney Caleb Kruckenberg said there are three main concerns with the changes.

“One of the things they require, that the local school district has committed to work with the charter school, that’s a problem when certain school districts just refuse to cooperate,” Kruckenberg said.

The new rules also require charter groups to show a community need in their application for grant funding. That includes an analysis of a school’s projected socio-economic diversity.

“Each applicant must provide a needs analysis and describe the need for the proposed project, including how the proposed project would serve the interests and meet the needs of students and families in the communities the charter school intends to serve,” the Department of Education’s requirement reads.

Though the department’s materials state the rules aren’t meant to target charter schools in less racially diverse areas, MAPSA’s lawsuit reflects concerns about the way the rules are written.

Kruckenberg said many of Michigan’s charter schools serve socio-economically disadvantaged students.

“If you take that funding away, particularly if you disadvantage schools these schools that are doing the best job, that are serving these specific groups of students, then it’s going to take away more educational opportunities and that just hurts the students,” Kruckenberg said.

Aside from the content of the rules, the MAPSA lawsuit contends the education department overstepped its authority when it created those new rules.

Kruckenberg said Congress was intentional when it revamped the federal Charter Schools Program in 2015.

“But what they didn’t do, and I think what they didn’t do very pointedly, is they didn’t tell the department that it had any role in issuing new criteria. And I think that really was a deliberate choice,” he said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Education Department said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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