CMU Closes Two Charters in Three Years: What's Next For Others?

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Like most any school on a summer Friday afternoon, the doors to Sankofa Shule Public School Academy are locked.

What's different about Sankofa is that come fall, the doors will probably stay locked.

That's because as a public school academy or charter school, Sankofa needs an institution to back it. And after 12 years, Central Michigan University is revoking the school's charter.

"We do not enjoy closing schools," said James Goenner, executive director of CMU's Center for Charter Schools. "That's not the business we're in. But it's part of the accountability equation."

The school tried to get Lansing Community College to pick up where CMU left off and charter Sankofa, but the LCC board voted against it.

Central Michigan revoked the charter of Walter French Academy in 2004. Goenner says it was for the same reason.

"Primarily parents leaving the academy," he said.

So why did they leave?

"Parents tell us their primary drivers are academic programs for their kids, individualized instruction and the ability to talk to who's in charge," Goenner said.

Sankofa did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP this year.

So with two CMU charter schools closed in three years, should parents at the university's other Lansing charter schools worry?

"No," Goenner said. "All the schools have their charters renewed and they're moving forward."

And Capital Area Academy, Cole Academy, Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy and Shabazz Academy all met AYP this past year. Still, some of those schools have shorter charters because of administrative turnover.

Goenner says charter schools have their challenges.

"They tend to provide service to more urban students and more low-income students," he said.

Administrative turnover is often an issue too. And charters don't get local property tax funds to pay for building improvements.

Still, Goenner says the problems that led to revoking the charters at Sankofa and French are isolated.

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