Detroit Charter Data [DCD] was born out of the discrepancies I witnessed between school funding and access to resources at my charter school.
Independently operated and funded by federal, state and local taxes, charter schools are a composite of traditional public schools (public funding and universal access) with aspects of private schools (choice, autonomy and flexibility). The end result is a mixed bag of independent districts with free reign of everything from the curriculum to budget. In many states, like New York, charter schools are required to be not-for-profit operations; Michigan is not one of those states. In fact, according to a report by the National Education Policy Center, Michigan has the highest proportion of for-profit charter schools in the nation.
Having a background in journalism I decided to send in as many FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests as possible to figure out where the money was being allocated. The process was really important for me to understand the decisions at my school. That said, I ran into a number of hurdles in the process. Detroit Charter Data would be a resource for community members and stakeholders, like myself, to get to the bottom of where money and resources are going inside of charter schools.
A data aggregator and FOIA generator the site will be grounded in a charter map on the home page which will list out all charter schools in the city. Users can filter the map to focus on Authorizers, Management Organizations or Inception Dates. Once users have picked a school they are interested in learning more about they can click on it and go to the "FOIA Generator" this would be a template FOIA that users could tweak for their personal use (we would have recommended requests listed at the bottom of the page). Users would create and send in their own FOIAs and then upload results to the site. The overall goal is an accountability/transparency site created for and by the public.
Funded by Detroit, MI (November 2013)