Public school choice in Michigan has become increasingly popular in the past five years. More and more, parents are choosing to place their children in either a public charter school or a school district other than the one to which they are assigned by their residential address.

The number of children taking advantage of these options has risen from 283,449 in 2011-12 to 334,392 in 2016-17, an 18 percent increase. The total number of Michigan public school students in the 2016-17 school year was 1,532,335, and 22 percent of them were enrolled in a charter school or in a different school district.

The changing enrollment patterns include a 23 percent jump in charter school enrollment over a five-year period. There were 119,950 charter school students in 2011-12, which rose to 147,740 in 2016-17.

Under a 1996 law called “Schools of Choice,” a student who lives in one school district may transfer to a school in an adjacent district. There were 99,301 Schools of Choice students in 2011-12, which rose to 131,267 students in 2016-17, a 32 percent increase.

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“When given a chance, more families are flocking to use the different kinds of school choice that Michigan offers,” said Ben DeGrow, the director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “As these numbers continue to grow, more and more parents will need access to good information and safe transportation in order to make choices that work best for their children.”


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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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