Charter School Update

Published December 1, 2001

A total of 2,372 charter schools, serving more than 576,000 students, were in operation at the start of the 2001-02 school year, according to the Center for Education Reform. The continuing growth reflects the success of models like National Heritage Academies; the slowing of that growth over the last few years reflects government-mandated caps on expansion and school board animosity to competition.

Charter Management Company Makes Inc. List

National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA), a Michigan-based national charter school management company serving almost 14,000 students, has been named one of America’s entrepreneurial growth leaders by Inc. magazine in its annual 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

Ranked #19 in its first appearance in the Inc. list, the Grand Rapids-based NHA opened its first school in 1996 and has since opened 27 additional schools in Michigan, North Carolina, and New York. An independent survey indicated that over 90 percent of all NHA parents say NHA delivers on its promise of academic excellence and are satisfied with the education their children are receiving.

Pennsylvania School Boards May Face Suit

The 3,000-student Einstein Academy Charter School (TEACH), one of the largest online K-12 schools in the U.S., is planning to file a class action lawsuit against more than 300 Pennsylvania School Boards for withholding $5 million in per-pupil allocations from the school since July.

The Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School had a similar experience last year, when some 50 districts balked at paying money to the charter school. The state Department of Education threatened to withhold almost $1 million in other funds from the non-paying districts. (See “Defending Cyber Schools and Homeschooling,” School Reform News, July 2001.)

“The offending administrators have been told again and again, even by the State Secretary of Education, that they are required by law to send the legislated funding directly to The Einstein Academy, and yet they intentionally and defiantly refuse to do so,” said Robert Crowe, president of The Einstein Academy Parent Teachers Organization.

Critics Decry Creative Solution to Michigan Cap

Although community colleges in Michigan have run up against a state cap on the number of charter schools they may open in their local service area, Bay Mills Community College, a Native American school with a statewide service area, has partnered with Ferris State University to start new charters throughout Michigan, thus circumventing the cap.

Critics don’t like the innovative solution and argue that chartering power should be restricted to a limited local area. But Dan Quisenberry, executive director of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, points out that Bay Mills is responding “to all the demand that’s out there.”

Victory in Missouri

Charter Consultants reports that the Imhotep Charter Academy, Inc. and the Missouri State Board of Education reached an out-of-court settlement on October 26 regarding Imhotep’s lawsuit against the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for denying Imhotep’s charter school proposal. Only the State Board of Education has the authority to deny a charter application.

The settlement came just one business day before the trial was scheduled to start, and just one day after the state suffered a defeat in its attempt to block the lawsuit from going to trial. DESE agreed to assist Imhotep in preparing its application and to forward it to the state Board of Education.