Rep. Outman wrestling with cap on Charter schools

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 3:05 pm on Thursday, November 24, 2011

State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, speaks to a crowd at the Legislative Luncheon on Monday. (Daily News/Cory Smith)

SIDNEY — State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, is struggling with whether to support a bill that would increase the number charter schools in Michigan.
Outman discussed the bill, which would remove the current cap on the number of charter schools, at Monday’s Legislative Luncheon at Montcalm Community College.
Outman said the current cap on charter schools is set at 150 schools in Michigan. The legislation is primarily focused on the southeastern portion of the state, where charter schools are in more demand.
“My first problem with it (the bill), is they haven’t proved to me that charters do a better job of education,” Outman said. “I wonder, are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Are we at the tipping point where public education is no longer effective and we need to move in a new direction? I don’t think that’s the case. We have an education system that is the envy of most of the rest of the world.”
Outman understands there are many problems facing the public education system, but he doesn’t necessarily see an increase in charter schools as the best answer.
“There are good charters out there, I’m sure,” he said. “The other problem I have is some of those charters could be operated by out-of-state entities. I don’t know that I like our money going out of state. If they were Michigan charters, I’d be more accepting of it.”
Outman said he looks at local area districts like Lakeview as an example of why he is hesitant to support the bill.
“We’re already closing buildings. We can’t fill the buildings we have now and yet this kind of goes against the grain,” he said. “You can’t fill the buildings you have and you’re talking about building new buildings to service the same population. I struggle with that.”
John Kroneck, president of board of directors for Threshold Academy in Orleans Township, a charter school, said charter schools offer a different kind of service from standard public education and can’t necessarily be compared to traditional public schools on every single front.
“We service a lot of the Greenville and Ionia area and we have a population of students that are having difficulty in the regular schools,” Kroneck said. “I am very proud of our school. We will never be at the MEAP level of scores of schools around us because that’s not the population we work with.”
He also believes some charter schools should be shut down because they are “playing the system.”
“It’s a complicated issue,” Kroneck said.

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