Simmering faculty concerns about Eastern Michigan University's involvement with the Education Achievement Authority may bring additional focus to state concerns over the charter schools it authorizes. EMU is among 11 across the state at risk of losing its ability to authorize more charter school operations.
Education Department Associate Professor Steve Wellinski says many charter schools poach students from public schools. That costs districts state per-pupil funding for each student lost.
It isn't the first time Wellinski and the union representing EMU faculty has raised concerns about the school's involvement in K-12 education initiatives.
The EMU-chapter of the American Association of University Professors has repeatedly called on Administration and the Board of Regents to sever ties with the Education Achievement Authority. Governor Rick Snyder's administration created the EAA to take over the lowest performing districts in Michigan, with a mandate to enact rapid academic improvement.
The EAA is also on State Superintendent Mike Flanagan's list of organizations that may have its charter school authorization privileges suspended. Will that inflame an already touchy issue when classes begin in September? Wellinski hopes faculty will act as a force of positive change, "Lot of talk about what we do to help public schools. I certainly don't want this to be against charter schools, I'd rather be more pro-active of what we do to safeguard public schools."
Part of that will be to make a difference in November. Wellinski says it will be important to inform voters that Governor Rick Snyder, and certain lawmakers, is selling out public schools. EMU-AAUP President Howard Bunsis seconds the sentiment.
EMU Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom says the Administration strongly supports public schools, and cites it as one of the strengths of the university's mission.
Still, Larcom says university administration isn't satisfied with the academic performance of some of its 12 charters and is taking steps to address the problems. Among other things, some charter school board members have been removed and EMU is providing additional professional development support.
At this time, EMU has no plans to authorize additional charter schools, whether a suspension is enacted or not. E-M-U officials are working with the state superintendent's office to respond to charter concerns by an October 22nd deadline.