A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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Results — Not Dollars Spent — Matter For Parents Choosing Schools For Their Students

Battle Creek newspaper blames charter public schools for failure of some traditional public schools

A recent editorial from the Battle Creek Enquirer claimed that charter schools are destroying public schools and "doing immeasurable harm to our democracy."

"The people behind the charter school and privatization movement are intent on destroying public schools, and they are succeeding," the editorial said. "...What's going on? Blame the exodus of students and families fleeing under-resourced districts and classrooms in neighborhoods increasingly segregated by income."

However, the students and families in the Enquirer's own circulation area tell a different story.

In fact, parents are very likely leaving a poorer-performing, better-funded district for other conventional school districts that receive far fewer dollars per student but in many instances have better performing schools.

For example, Battle Creek Public Schools lost 2,483 students in 2012-13 — not to charter public schools — but mostly to other conventional public schools in Battle Creek that participate in the state's schools of choice program. Battle Creek Public Schools lost 1,440 students to the Lakeview School District and another 665 to Pennfield Schools.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's grading system for 2012-13, which factors in the socioeconomic background of students into schools' grades, many of the parents who took their students out of Battle Creek and enrolled them instead in the Lakeview or Pennfield school districts likely went from a school that was lower-performing to one that was higher-performing. For example, the Mackinac Center graded Battle Creek's 11 elementary and middle schools with: 5 F's, 2 D's, 2 C's and 1 B. Lakeview's five elementary and middle schools all received a C grade.

And, according to the state of Michigan, it was Battle Creek that received far more dollars per student than either of the districts taking in Battle Creek students.

In Calhoun County, according to the Michigan Department of Education for the 2011-12 year (the most recent year for which data was available), Battle Creek schools received $11,088 per student in local, state and federal general fund money. Pennfield received $8,174 per pupil, nearly $3,000 less per student.

That’s true for Lakeview as well, which received $8,851 per student.

“It's wonderful that Michigan gives parents a choice," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center. "And parents are choosing to take their children to schools that spend less money and produce better outcomes for students."

Michael McCullough, executive editor and opinion editor of the Battle Creek Enquirer, didn't respond to a request for comment.

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See also:

Study: Michigan School Rankings Mostly Measure Poverty, Not Quality

Flawed State Rankings Mean Some Principals Are Out of a Job

State Report Card Ranks Some Top Schools Near the Bottom

Central Michigan University economist Jason Taylor explains how raising the minimum wage will hurt teen workers trying to find their first job. See more at "Raising the Minimum Wage, Lowering Opportunity."


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