NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Impact Of Limited School Choice In Michigan

December 14, 2000

Michigan is a leading state in opening up public school choice to its students, allowing families some additional educational options for their children through charter school legislation and limited public school choice. Nearly 50,000 students (3 percent of the public school population) attend more than 170 charter schools in the state. Under the "schools-of-choice" program parents were given some choice; however, districts were not required to participate. During the 1999-2000 school year fewer than 18,000 students were able to take advantage of this opportunity.

A recent report from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy finds that the increased competition is improving educational opportunities for parents and children and encourages schools to respond to their needs and demands. The report looks specifically at the state's largest county, Wayne, which had a total of 349,678 students attending the traditional public schools and 14,493 attending charter schools. Three districts in Wayne County are examples of positive response to the increased competition.

  • Dearborn, a large urban district of about 16,000 students, developed theme schools around such concepts as creative arts, engineering technology, extended school year and gifted and talented. It increased its enrollment from 14,229 in 1994-95 to 16,263 in 1998-99.
  • Flat Rock, a district south of Detroit, lost almost 700 of its 1,686 students to a new charter school, but the growing district was relieved from spending more than $18 million for new facilities to accommodate the new students.
  • Highland Park, a small community surrounded by Detroit, expanded its enrollment by more than 600 students when it created a Career Academy for young adult education, mostly for those who have previously dropped out.

Other school districts claim to be the victims of school choice because of lost students and lost revenue. One such district is Inkster, whose enrollment has fallen from about 3,000 in 1991 to 1,749 in 1999. The report notes, however, that the enrollment drop-off began in the 1960s and has actually slowed since the creation of the choice programs from an average loss of 256 students per year (1991-94) to 126 (1995-98).

Source: Matthew Ladner and Matthew J. Brouilette, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," August 2000, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 140 West Main Street, P. O. Box 568, Midland, Michigan, 48640, (517) 631-0900.


Browse more articles on Education Issues