News Story

Almost 220,000 Michigan Public School Students Rely On School Choice

Charter public schools blamed for problems with traditional public schools, but parents choose charters and other alternatives for their kids

About one out of every six students in the state of Michigan is enrolled in either a charter school or a school of choice.

For the 2011-12 school year, of the 1.4 million Michigan public school students, 120,000 were enrolled in public charter schools and 99,301 attended a conventional school district that wasn't their locally assigned school.*

In fact, 537 of the state’s 549 school districts lost at least one of the 99,301 students who left their home district for another conventional school district via schools of choice, according to the state of Michigan.

Yet, when student choice has become a villain in the media, most only point the finger at charter schools.

Moody's Investors Service released a report Oct. 15 titled, "Charter Schools Pose Growing Risks For Urban Public School Districts." The Battle Creek Enquirer claimed in an editorial that charter schools are destroying public schools and cited the Moody's report.

Yet, 84 percent of the conventional school districts in the state of Michigan all took in "non-resident" students.

"It means students everywhere are doing this," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

While some conventional public school districts are losing students to schools of choice, others are gaining students.

For example, Pontiac lost 1,500-plus students to schools of choice, but it was the surrounding districts of West Bloomfield (746), Waterford (299), Brandon (261) and Oxford (246) that picked up the former Pontiac students.

Milan Public Schools advertised to recruit students to its school district this past summer and the teachers union funded half of the cost of the ad campaign, said Milan Superintendent Bryan Girbach.

Girbach said the district believes the advertising campaign helped recruit students to the district, which played a part in the district balancing its budget.

*The numbers above for the students relying on school choice do not count the thousands of other kids attending private schools or being homeschooled.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.