Michigan is part of a small group of states that don’t help charter schools with the costs of occupying a school building.
A new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found that of the 44 U.S. states that allow charter schools, only 14 — including Michigan — have no measures to help charter schools buy or rent buildings.
The state’s lack of funding for charter facilities is particularly striking given the state’s reputation as a haven for the schools, which are funded by taxpayers but are not run by a traditional, elected school board.
Michigan is home to two of the three cities with the highest proportion of students enrolled in charter schools — Detroit and Flint. It is the home state of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, perhaps the single most famous advocate of charter schools.
About 10% of students in the state — and 53% in Detroit — attend charter schools. That’s compared to 6% nationally.
Yet many charter schools in Michigan pay for their buildings with the help of private donors, or depend on large institutions like the Catholic church or traditional school districts, which will sometimes rent facilities at low prices.
Relying on a patron for something as basic as a schoolhouse has proved perilous for charters nationally. The potential for instability was brought to the fore earlier this year in Detroit when schools renting buildings from the city district were forced to move or close. After a leadership change, the district decided to end its leases with charter schools.
The report argues that a lack of funding for facilities is one reason charter school growth has slowed nationally for the first time in years.
To critics in Michigan, less charter growth is a good thing. Charter schools can cause financial problems for traditional districts by taking their students — and the students’ roughly $8,000 in annual state funds. Unlike Massachusetts, which sends money to traditional districts to offset the effects of losing students to charter schools, Michigan has no such policy in place.
Other states help charter schools find buildings by giving them access to property tax dollars — the same method used by traditional districts in Michigan to cover facilities costs. Dozens more states provide loans, grants, or direct funding for charter school facilities.
Scroll down to read the full report.