The Detroit Free Press did hundreds of interviews and examined tens of thousands of documents in a yearlong investigation of Michigan’s charter schools and how the state oversees them.
Among the records: More than 400 three-ring binders the Michigan Department of Education keeps on every charter, including those that closed, with contracts between schools and authorizers, management agreements, leases, building inspections, correspondence, internal MDE e-mails, court filings and parent complaints. Also examined were school audits, lawsuits, deeds, assessor records and school Web postings.
The Free Press also surveyed all 296 charters in the state — under which about 370 schools operate — plus numerous authorizers and management companies, both full-service and those that provide limited services such as human resources. The information was used in part to build a comprehensive searchable database listing every charter school, its test results and rankings, its management company, whether the company is for-profit or not, and what services it provides. That database will be posted Thursday on freep.com/charters.
The news organization used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain records from schools and authorizers, including payments to vendors and lease amendments.