Over the past two summers, as the 482Forward Policy interns, we were tasked with creating a visual tool that shows the lines of authority from the State of Michigan all the way down to individual charter and traditional schools. When we started, we assumed that this type of information would be readily available to Detroit parents, but that was simply not the case. Information from the state level down to the charter management organizations (CMO) was relatively easy to find. But when we began to search for the names of school board members and how to contact them, we encountered many barriers.
There are hundreds of charter and traditional schools in Detroit. Because charter schools are decentralized into 59 districts, there is no centralized, easily accessible source to find their board members. Instead, you have to search the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), since each charter school is legally incorporated as a non-profit corporation. This is an arduous task that requires navigating a complicated website and uncovering annual reports. (As an aside, the information about which management company charter schools have hired - that’s the organization that often runs the day-to-day operations of the school - is in an entirely different, but equally non-user-friendly online database maintained by the Department of Education.)