The Muskegon Heights charter school district owes the company that’s operating its schools a little more than $2 million. That’s according to Mosaica Education’s CEO.
The new charter district was created in Muskegon Heights when severe cash problems prompted a state takeover of the traditional school district by an emergency manager in 2012. Now the charter district is having cash flow problems of its own.
Mosaica Education’s CEO Mike Connelly says there are “plenty” of times when the company covered the costs of starting a new charter school before it could turn a profit.
“This one is an outlier for us. It’s much less payments to us, zero (this school year) and much more advances to the school, almost a million dollars. So it’s not our normal operation but it’s not a freak of nature though,” Connelly said.
"We consider ourselves social entrepreneurs. We have a double bottom line. Our most important things is the success of the schools we operate," he said.
Teachers and staff at Muskegon Heights schools work for Mosaica. The company is responsible for paying them, but the district, Muskegon Heights Public School Academy (MHPSA) is responsible for funneling the school aid payments to cover operating expenses, Connelly said.
MHPSA school board and its attorney have declined repeated requests for comment on the ongoing cash flow problems.
Those are two good questions to ask when assessing bills being introduced in our national and state capitals.
For instance, Michigan Senate Bill 682 reeks of politics.
The bill would cripple the charter school movement in Michigan by imposing property taxes on charter schools, prohibiting for-profit firms from managing charter schools, and prohibiting charter school authorizing bodies from creating any new schools unless students in the ones they have already chartered outperform conventional schools in the same school district by at least 20 percent.
If the operators of the two charter schools in the Tri-Cities wanted to open other schools, they would have to outperform Grand Haven and Spring Lake public schools by 20 percent. In districts with poor public schools, that may be feasible — but in an area like ours, with outstanding public schools, that becomes much more difficult.
Even in communities with excellent public schools, one size does not fit all.
The neighborhood school is not necessarily a good environment for every child. It may be too big or too small, too academically ambitious or not ambitious enough, or the peer group might be problematic.
There are plenty of reasons that parents may seek an alternative, and why shouldn't some options exist?
That said, there are great charter schools and bad charter schools, and there could probably be more government oversight. We also need to keep an eye on the “for-profit” charter schools to make sure the operators aren’t running off with the money and not putting enough back into the classrooms.
However, charter schools usually determine their own destiny — the good ones survive and the bad ones close due to lack of students.
So, why would state Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, sponsor of Senate Bill 682, throw a wrench into charter school operations?
Look at the politics and the money. Charter schools, just like public schools, receive dollars from the state for each student. Some argue charter schools are taking much-needed dollars away from public schools.
In addition, the state’s teachers’ union, the Michigan Education Association, really dislikes charters. Charter school teachers often are not MEA members and don’t pay union dues.
At election time, the MEA doles out thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates. Is this Sen. Hopgood’s way of saying thanks to the MEA and asking the union to remember him again next election?
Senate Bill 682 has been sent to committee. Hopefully, it stays there.
Our View: Michigan can learn from other states how to end its 'education recession'
We all know about Michigan’s painful economic recession. It began well before the national recession and cut much deeper — of the 2 million jobs lost in the United States between 2000 and 2009, roughly half were in Michigan. Less well known is Michigan’s educational recession — the slide in our national ranking in student testing over the past decade. And while our economy has turned the corner, the educational recession continues today.
That’s the conclusion of a recent report on education in Michigan by Education Trust-Midwest. It makes for sobering reading. The report is packed with charts showing Michigan near the bottom of national educational rankings. Michigan ranks in the bottom five states in student achievement improvement between 2003 and 2013 in the key areas of fourth-grade reading and math, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress; we were one of six states that actually lost ground in fourth-grade reading over the past decade. Ours has been an equal opportunity recession — white, African-American, Hispanic, rich kids, poor kids, charter schools and traditional public schools, all have fared poorly.
The report compares Michigan with Massachusetts, the nation’s leading state in educational performance, and Tennessee, a historically low-performing state that has made huge strides in the past decade. There’s no silver bullet those states are using to increase learning, but Education Trust-Midwest believes they both offer lessons for Michigan.
Massachusetts, which would rank second in the world in math if it were its own country, is known for its rigorous standards and its demanding high school graduation test. The state emphasizes professional development for teachers, funnels extra funding to school districts with high concentrations of poverty and imposes strict standards of quality and accountability when authorizing charter schools.
Tennessee has developed a long-term, comprehensive, research-based reform effort with an emphasis on evaluating and improving teachers, while drawing support and input from all stakeholders, from educators to the business community to students themselves.
What the two states have in common is a sustained focus on reform, based on data instead of politics, and a recognition of the importance of quality teaching. Michigan’s educational reform efforts have come in fits and starts (our strict high school graduation requirements are one positive in our favor). But much of the public policy focus on education over the past decade here, Education Trust-Midwest notes, has been on charter schools and school choice, which, as the statistics indicate, haven’t done anything to improve actual student achievement. And our state has made little progress in developing a coherent policy on evaluating teachers and helping them improve.
It’s painful to read how poorly our state is faring compared to the rest of the nation, but it’s information we need to know to improve. We’ve spent so much time here comparing school districts to one another that we seldom look at the bigger picture. We can improve the quality of classroom teaching, demand accountability and direct state funding where it’s needed most, but doing so will take cooperation from educators, legislators and other stakeholders, with a focus on results instead of ideology and a commitment to stick with reform over the long haul. Our economic recession has passed — we’re long overdue for our education recession to end as well.
Membership is simple and the dues are really reasonable! ONLY $300 plus $1 per student
So who is the MACSB and Why Would a Board Want to Join?
When Charter Boards set written performance expectations,
the major focus should always be in the area of Student Achievement,
establishing expectations in the Management area is also important
speaks to issues of prudent and ethical administrative actions.
But the “expectations” model for governance
promoted by the
MACSB has a special feature that helps Board focus on an often
area….the performance of the Board itself!
Most Boards seldom engage in any form of
usually because there are no standards or criteria to measure against.But MACSB offers a practical way to make it
happen.It is done by establishing written
expectations for Board performance and assessing performance against
In this area, a Board establishes
expectations for itself in the following categories:
Governance Approach & Style
Board Code of Conduct
These expectations are not a substitute for
or redundant to
Board bylaws.They are quite different
(but complementary) in that they address topics directly related to
“governance”rather than structure.And these performance expectations are also
monitored and self-assessed by the Board based on internal survey of
Performance reports and assessments in this
typically produced two times a year, each covering about half of the
expectations categories.Again, Boards
can conduct these assessments on their own or tap into the MACSB
reporting system that produces the survey documents for completion by
Board member and then compiles the results for Board deliberation.
An important by-product of these Board
expectations is that they also serve as a helpful screening process for
candidates.Rather than expect
candidates to face the traditional tasks of “figuring out” what
means and wading through the 1,000 page policy manual that current
long forgotten, candidates see the written, Board-developed standards
how your Board intends to operate.
Board expectations also help preclude
membership by those
with strange or unknown agendas.They
know what is expected and what isn’t!In
other words, candidates and current members can substantively determine
there is likely a good “fit”…kind of a Match.com for member recruitment.
The value of this approach cannot be
overstated.Continuity of the Board’s
governance style is
essential to effective performance.And
many Boards have paid the price for arrival of a member with delusions
individual authority, especially when coupled with a hidden agenda and
knowledge of how the Board operates.
In future Board Bits issues we will provide
examples of how
Boards can address a variety of issues and decisions based on the
that underlies the MACSB Leadership Governance model.
Need To Find A New ESP?
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Want to Find Out How to REALLY Evaluate Your ESP?
So you've got an ESP that you think is doing a pretty good job...Are you sure?
Evaluating your ESP is a year-round job! But first...you have to set the criteria through your Board`s EXPECTATIONS. Want to know more? Click Here, send us a email and we`ll come to you with the details of the Who, What, When, Where and Why of managing your ESP
Charter Board Member Code Training
A list of "things to remember" as you serve on your Charter School Board!