News Story

State Senator Blames Public School Choice After Fight Makes News

But district data shows nonresident students not a discipline problem

Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township.

A Republican state senator is blaming a Michigan schools of choice program for a fight at L’Anse Creuse Public Schools that was caught on videotape and broadcast statewide.

According to the school district, the fight happened on school property after school hours. School officials said those involved included students who lived in the district as well as some schools of choice students, but added that “non-student family members” were primarily involved in the fight.

State Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township was quoted in the Macomb Daily saying that schools of choice led to the altercation.

The newspaper reported:

However, Brandenburg says his office has heard numerous complaints about discipline issues at L’Anse Creuse and he believes the troublemakers generally are schools of choice students. He was not able to offer any statistics proving that claim but said it’s time to take another look at schools of choice, which was approved by the state Legislature back in the 1990s.

“'I think taking on someone else’s problems for the money is morally wrong,' he said. 'I’ve lived in Harrison Township for 39 years, I had four kids go through L’Anse Creuse, but things seem different over there now. This isn’t the L’Anse Creuse I knew.'"

L'Anse Creuse claims its own research shows that nonresident students are no more a discipline problem than resident students. In June, the district stated student suspensions in 2013/2014 were 10.52 percent for resident student enrollment and 7.05 percent for schools of choice students.

Brandenburg told the newspaper he would like to leave it up to the voters whether schools of choice is available in their school district. Under current law, whether and how many nonresident students are accepted is a question left up to the elected school board.

When contacted, Brandenburg’s spokesman Daniel Papineau said in an email, “Senator Brandenburg, who has four kids of his own that all went through L’Anse Creuse, simply and honestly feels that there were not the problems at the district then, without school of choice, that there is now with schools of choice.”

L’Anse Creuse Public Schools had an enrollment of 11,124 students in 2014-15. That includes 1,242 nonresident students, who came mostly from Mount Clemens (513 students) and Clintondale (238 students). In the other direction, 507 students who were residents of the L’Anse Creuse district chose to attend other school districts in that year under the same cross-district public schools of choice program.

School districts have the authority to control the number of nonresident students they want to accept in the district, said Michael Van Beek, the director of research for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Districts also can deny a slot to a nonresident student who has been suspended or expelled from another district due to behavioral issues.

“This seems like a solution in search of a problem,” Van Beek. “School boards have complete control over how and if they participate in schools of choice, so the only options state policymakers have is to blunt the already limited public school options that benefit hundreds of thousands of students and families. Legislators should take these anecdotes with a grain of salt and respect the choices of parents.”

Gary Naeyaert, the executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, said that school choice shouldn’t be blamed for the poor decisions of a few individuals.


See also:

Parents Complain Students From Adjacent Districts 'Overcrowding' Their Schools

School Choice Benefits Students

Study: Michigan Students Benefit from Using 'Schools of Choice'

Parents Speak Out on Effort to Halt School Choice