Philanthropist Withdraws $200 Million for Detroit Charter Schools

Detroit businessman and philanthropist Robert Thompson has withdrawn an offer to fund new charter schools in Detroit after the proposal drew angry criticism from the city's teachers union, which argued that the schools would drain millions of dollars from public schools, the Associated Press reports.

Thompson, the former owner of road building company Thompson-McCully Co., had planned to give $200 million through his foundation to open fifteen new charter high schools in the city. The move drew the ire of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, however, which held a large rally two weeks ago to protest the creation of additional charter schools in the state. According to the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, Detroit currently has forty-one charter schools with 20,500 students.

"I am disappointed and saddened by the anger and hostility that has greeted our proposal. Because of these contentious conditions, we are not going to move forward with our planned charter high schools," said Thompson in a statement. "Our proposal to build a number of new very small charter high schools in Detroit was intended to increase options for Detroit parents and children. The proposal was meant to be for kids and not against anyone or any institution."

The withdrawal of the offer by Thompson comes days after a bill creating the new schools became law. After passing both houses of the Michigan legislature, the bill was presented to Gov. Jennifer Granholm in early September. Granholm, who had two weeks to sign or veto the bill before it automatically became law, worked with legislative leaders to revise the bill to allow an additional 150 charter schools statewide, but failed to return the original bill with objections within the fourteen-day period stipulated by the state constitution. Given the confusion over the legislation and the withdrawal of funds by Thompson, the fate of the fifteen schools in Detroit is unclear.

Kathy Barks Hoffman. "Philanthropist No Longer Interested in Funding Charter Schools." Associated Press 10/02/2003.