Theis, other Michigan lawmakers oppose online charter school budget cuts

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed 20% cut for online public charter schools has prompted pushback from the school administrators and another member of a growing list of…

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed 20% cut for online public charter schools has prompted pushback from the school administrators and another member of a growing list of Republican lawmakers.

State Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, on Monday visited the Michigan International Prep School in Davison to express her opposition to the governor’s proposed budget cuts for the academy.

“Data shows students who attend charter schools show a marked improvement within three years,” Theis told The Center Square. “Taking on cohort students who aren’t succeeding in traditional public schools at a time when Michigan is at the bottom of the barrel for outcomes, is ill-informed and infuriating.”

As reported by The Center Square this month, the governor defended her proposed cuts by saying online schooling requires less physical infrastructure than brick-and-mortar schools. She didn’t address why she proposed appropriating more money to traditional public online schools than charter public online schools.

The Davison campus is one of five physical facilities Michigan International Prep School operates in Michigan.

“The potential funding reduction targeted against cyber schools will severely change our ability to service students and families the way we know how,” Superintendent Andrew Hulbert told The Center Square. “The five learning labs that MIPS operates would be in jeopardy of being eliminated under the proposed funding cuts.”

Michigan’s traditional public schools receive $9,150 annually per student. The governor’s 2024 budget would bump that number by an additional 5% if the Legislature approves it. Traditional public online school students would receive the same amount. The governor’s 2024 budget only includes $7,687 per charter public online school student.

“We believe all students are equal and deserve a quality education funded equally as their peers,” Hulbert said. “Currently, MIPS offers significant mental health support for students and families that would face reduction in light of funding reductions. Charter schools do not receive sinking funds and local taxes to support the innovative programs offered. The only funding that cyber schools are able to use for all costs is the state aid. Michigan International Prep School would lose the ability to serve every student and family on their own individualized pathway under the proposed student funding reduction.”

On March 3, Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, and seven other Republican members of the House and Senate School Air and PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittees sent Whitmer a letter in which they urged her to fund all public schools equitably, including public charter schools and public online charter schools.

“Across the Great Lakes State, there are 150,240 students attending public charter academies and 21,200 students enrolled in online charter schools,” the lawmakers wrote. “Together, this student population encompasses approximately 10% of the statewide pupil membership. Public charter schools need equal funding of students to keep class sizes small and to help teachers buy books for the classroom. Decreasing the funding of charter public schools singles out certain public schools as being less than others. All students deserve equal funding in the state budget and students enrolled in charter public schools are not worth less than those enrolled in any other public school. Public charter school students come from all walks of life and bring diverse experiences and needs to their school setting.”