NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Schools of Choice" Allows Michigan Parents to Choose a District

January 26, 2001

This year, more than 26,000 Michigan students enrolled in public school districts other than the one in which they live, according to the Michigan Department of Education. That's triple the number from four years ago, when the state passed a "schools-of-choice" law allowing parents to pick their children's school district so long as the district agrees to be a "choice" district.

Parents' reasons for switching districts range from dissatisfaction with the local schools to wanting their children closer to where they work. Others are attracted to unusual programs other districts have created to lure students -- and the state's per-pupil money that would come with them.

  • The Detroit Public Schools district is the biggest loser in the state, with 3,082 students rejecting it in favor of suburban districts.
  • Though Detroit accepts out-of-district students, none has enrolled.
  • In addition Detroit has lost thousands of students to charter schools.
  • Overall, district officials estimate Detroit lost 19,000 students in the last four years.

More than 1,325 of Detroit's elementary-age children -- enough to fill two schools -- have gone to nearby Highland Park, which offers all-day kindergarten. Last summer, Highland Park spent $32,000 on an aggressive marketing campaign targeting unsatisfied Detroit parents. The district ran radio spots, advertised in newspapers and sent direct mail to homes in certain Detroit ZIP codes, pushing all-day kindergarten and other innovations.

When school started in September, Highland Park had gained more than $800,000 worth of new students.

Source: Julie Ross And Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki, "Schools of choice: Crossovers reach 26,000; 1996 state law forced competition," Detroit Free Press, January 23, 2001.


Browse more articles on Education Issues