Tuesday marks 20th anniversary of charter schools in Michigan - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Tuesday marks 20th anniversary of charter schools in Michigan

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(01/14/14) - Tuesday marks the anniversary of a historic change in Michigan's educational system.

Twenty years ago, then governor John Engler signed a bill that allowed charter schools to open in Michigan.

Science, geography, reading and music class - this is school but not your average one. It's a Charter Academy.

"I've been involved in charters for 13 years and when I heard there was a charter school opening, I didn't even know what a charter school was. I had to Google it," said Lisa Leimeister, director of Greater Heights Academy, in Mount Morris Township.

Greater Heights Academy is a charter school that is part of a growing alternative to public education. The school receives state funding, but is independently run.

According to the state's charter school association, there are nearly 300 charters in the state. That's up from 225 schools since Gov. Snyder lifted the cap on charter schools in 2011.

Greater Heights Academy opened in the fall under the new guidelines.

"I don't plan on growing fast. I think the trouble that some of the schools run into is they're too big, too fast and we could grow quicker and I'm trying to get my classroom small and maintained," Leimeister said.

Some of the differences include teacher pay and busing. Greater Heights does not have traditional busing. Many of these students take MTA. The teachers also do not receive significant raises over time.

"Our teachers start out at what the teachers in their area start out, but traditionally after they've been here for 10 years, they don't have the salary that you might get in a traditional school system," Leimeister said.

While opinions differ on the impact of Charter schools, Leimeister believes, in 20 years, it's created a stronger educational system.

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