DETROIT — Detroit school officials may decide to stop authorizing and overseeing charter schools in order to focus on improving traditional public schools.

Newly appointed Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the Detroit Free Press ( ) that he’ll likely recommend the district fulfill its existing contracts with charter schools and then concentrate on improving its traditional schools.

The effort to focus on traditional public schools comes at a time when students in the district have performed poorly on national and state exams.

The longest contract among the district’s 13 charter schools is five years, said Vitti, who took charge of the district in May.

Charter schools can innovate more easily and more quickly than public schools, said Doug Ross, an advocate for charter schools.

Ross, who once oversaw the district’s charter schools office, said the district should stay involved in the charter school sector in a limited but high-quality way.

Vitti said he has confidence in the office’s quality oversight of the charters, but that he’s unsure it’s possible to focus on traditional public schools while continuing to approve charters.

Deborah Hunter-Harvill, the district’s academics subcommittee chair, said the issue deserves an extensive discussion.

Lawmakers first allowed for the creation of charter schools in 1993, and the district authorized its first in 1995. The district is one of more than a dozen authorizers of charter schools in Detroit.

Enrollment in the district has shrunk as more charter schools have opened in the area. The district currently has fewer than 50,000 students enrolled, compared to 160,000 students 15 years ago.

The decreasing enrollment can impact district finances since Michigan is a state where school aid is tied to enrollment numbers.

Information from: Detroit Free Press,

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