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State of Charter Schools: How Michigan Spends $1 Billion But Fails to Hold Schools Accountable

The Free Press  found compelling examples of charter schools that fulfill the original mission, and equally compelling stories of teachers and administrators who make a difference in their classrooms.

But the Free Press also found in a yearlong investigation that the charter school promise has never been fully realized, and Michigan’s hands-off approach hasn’t helped. The state has never passed laws that reward and penalize performance , that set standards for those who authorize and run schools — and that demand more oversight into how the charter system spends almost $1 billion annually in state money.

Michigan laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest. As a result, for-profit companies find fertile ground to manage schools and insist — without much challenge from the state — that the public money they receive becomes private once it’s in their hands.

Reporters examined the state of charter schools in Michigan — successes, failures, flaws in the system and in state laws. They also looked across the country for best practices, at how other states oversee their charter schools.