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Posted on Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Washtenaw County school districts see explosion in number of students attending other school districts

By David Jesse


Aaron Green, 15, right, and his brother Ryan, 12, board their school bus Thursday morning at the corner of Tyler and Dorset streets in the West Willow neighborhood. Both boys live in the Van Buren school district but choose to attend Ypsilanti schools. Lon Horwedel |

The number of students who live in one Washtenaw County school district but attend a different traditional school district has grown by nearly 450 percent in the last eight years, Michigan Department of Education data shows.

In the fall of the 2009-10 school year, 2,910 of the 47,000 students in Washtenaw County's traditional school districts opted to switch districts through the schools of choice program. That's up from 655 students in the fall of the 2002-03 school year.

That increase outpaces the growth in the number of Washtenaw County students who are enrolled in a charter school. That number grew by 238 percent over the same time period.


The local rise also eclipses the schools of choice growth across the state, which was 111 percent during that eight-year span.

The movement showcases the increase in competition among traditional school districts for a shrinking pool of students, Washtenaw County education officials say.

"(Education) is becoming a market-driven enterprise," Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Bill Miller said. "And with more competition, combined with a decline in enrollments overall, school districts are having to create a brand for themselves. You have to market your identity."

A rising tide

On a recent morning, a group of students stood at a bus stop as an Ypsilanti school district bus rumbled down the street. Eight students climbed aboard, and the bus made two more quick stops to pick up five more students.

But it wasn't just another Ypsilanti district bus route.

The bus wasn't even in the Ypsilanti's district boundaries. It was driving through neighborhoods in the Willow Run school district, taking students who normally would go to Willow Run, but instead choose Ypsilanti through schools of choice.

State records show this school year, 2,910 students live in one of Washtenaw County's 10 traditional school districts but attend a different traditional school district. That's up about 700 students from the fall of 2008 and represents an increase of 2,255 students since 2002, the last year data is available.

Another 3,800 students live in a Washtenaw County traditional school district but attend a charter school. That's up by about 360 students from the fall of 2008, and up about 2,200 students since 2002.


To see what other school district students are going to instead of their home district, click on the PDF below.

"It's a profound social change taking place in our schools," said William Price, a professor of leadership and counseling in the school of education at Eastern Michigan University. "We are really moving away from the model of community school districts, connected to neighborhoods. We're moving to a marketplace where schooling is a commodity to be shopped."

Since state law changed in 1996 to allow students in one traditional school district to use schools of choice to go to another district, the number of local students taking advantage of the program has grown steadily, Miller said. The program allows a district to decide whether to accept students from neighboring districts, as well as deciding whether to place limits on the number of students accepted or specific grades to accept students in.

The district-to-district schools of choice shuffling is accompanied by student losses to charter schools and overall enrollment declines in Washtenaw County.

In the 2003-04 school year, the number of students in the county hit its peak at 52,621. It's slid every year since, to 51,543 in 2009-10, WISD records show.

Enrollment in private schools has remained relatively flat during the same time period, ranging from a high of 4,689 students in 2007-08 to a low of 3,678 in 2005-06. In the 2009-10 school year, 4,459 students who live in Washtenaw County are enrolled in private schools, WISD records show.

The bulk of the movement occurs on the east side of Washtenaw County, particularly in the Ypsilanti-area districts of Lincoln, Willow Run and Ypsilanti.

Each of those districts saw more than 500 students transfer to another traditional school district this school year. When charter schools are factored in, each of them has lost more than 1,400 students living inside their boundaries this school year.


Why move?

When Annette Green's family bought a house in the West Willow neighborhood of Ypsilanti Township, they ended up in the Van Buren school district. Her oldest son started there, but didn't stay long.

"It just wasn't a good fit for him and us," she said. "People were just treating him different because they heard he was from West Willow."

So Green started looking at other local school districts. Her oldest son enrolled in the Ypsilanti school district, while her younger son spent some time at a local charter school before also enrolling in the Ypsilanti district.

"It's a big difference. There's a bigger mix of kids there," she said. "My youngest son goes to a middle school that's being closed down (East), but I'll keep him going to West. The teachers there just care so much about my kids."


To see the history of Washtenaw County schools with losing students to charter schools and other traditional school districts, click on the PDF below.

Green used to drive her children to school, but so many kids in the neighborhood now go to Ypsilanti that the district sends a bus through to pick them up.

Green's reasoning for switching school districts is commonly cited by parents, experts said. But academic quality or perceptions of academic quality often lead the list of reasons why parents send their children to a different district.

"The biggest increases (in movement) occurred between 2000 and 2005," said Sharif Shakrani, a professor of measurement and quantitative methods and co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University. "It was largely due to the labeling of schools through the (Adequate Yearly Progress). If I was a parent and found out my school was labeled as failing, I'd be looking for another school district."

Other reasons aren't tied to quality of education, Miller said.

"We're just mobile. Instead of having your friends in your neighborhood, it¹s not uncommon to drive around to friends from a variety of activities, versus those who just live by you," Miller said. "It part of the change in our social fabric."

Impact on the education system

The movement has impacted districts across the state ­ financially and in other ways, experts said.

It's led to competition for students because each student is accompanied by a per-pupil state aid grant, making students a valuable commodity as state aid shrinks and districts struggle with budget deficits.


"This is a business," Shakrani said.

Districts are spending more on advertising in an attempt to lure students to their districts. For example, the Lincoln school district paid $25,000 to be featured on a television infomercial about the "Best Schools in Michigan."

"School districts have to create a brand," Miller said. "You have to market your identity. You have to find that something that sets your school apart.

"What are your points of pride? How do you communicate that?"

Ann Arbor wasn't a schools of choice district until this spring, when it began accepting applications for several grades. This school year, the district expects to spend about $55,000 on advertising online, in print, and in specialty publications like directories and sports programs, district spokeswoman Liz Margolis said.

The Ypsilanti district has been aggressive in its advertising campaigns, including running ads on billboards inside the Ann Arbor school district boundaries in past years. The district is scheduled to spend $26,000 on advertising this year.

"Our promotion is two-fold, to retain and attract," said district spokeswoman Emma Jackson. "Some promotions, specifically for Ypsilanti New Tech High School, is tailored to attract students that are currently not enrolled in our district. We have had great success enrolling students who are attending charter schools that only go through eighth grade. Our district newsletter, mailed to parts of (zip code) 48197-98, is geared toward communicating to our families, to reach our stakeholders to inform them of what is taking place in our district and to appeal to new families. We also place ads to promote our open houses and high school fair, which targets both current and new students."

Another effect of the student movement is changing demographics in districts.

That's because those with money are able to flee many poorer performing districts, Shakrani said.

"Why should we condemn the poor kids to a failing school? To me, that's economic discrimination," Shakrani said.

Transportation often influences a student's ability to switch districts since most schools of choice districts don't provide transportation outside their boundaries.

State statistics show the percentage of students classified as poor is increasing in local school districts that have the largest numbers of students leaving for other traditional school districts or charter schools. But it's unclear from the data how much of the increase in poverty rates is connected to students with money leaving and how much is due to the economy.

The future

The schools of choice program appears to be here to stay, experts and school officials said.

"You're not going to go back to forcing kids to go to a specific district," Shakrani said.

Miller agreed and said he expects to see more movement, particularly at the high school level.


To see where charter schools are getting their student body from, click on the PDF below.

Miller cites a number of specialty high schools opening in various districts and said the future could include one district with a technology-focused high school, another with a medical-focused high school and a third with a business-based high school. In that example, students would be able to choose among districts based on what high school they wanted to attend.

Many Washtenaw County school officials said schools of choice could eventually force consolidation among districts as some lose large amounts of students.

Ann Arbor school board Secretary Glenn Nelson said he¹d prefer a "more managed consolidation and connectivity."

Locally, more districts are electing to participate in schools of choice and are opening up more spots as they look for ways to pull in additional revenue. Ann Arbor was the latest district to opt into schools of choice, opening seats in kindergarten, first and sixth grades for next year.

"The intent of the (law) was to let parents have choice," Shakrani said.
"It's done that. The challenge is now for parents to make good decisions and
find good information to make their decisions on."

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.


David Jesse

Wed, Jun 9, 2010 : 3:01 p.m.

For those looking for demographic results on the MME, look on this page:,1607,7-140-22709_35150_47474---,00.html. There's a spreadsheet you can download that breaks it all down by subgroup.


Wed, Jun 9, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

JackieL, I found the Ann Arbor High school MME scores online. They are not broken down by race.


Wed, Jun 9, 2010 : 12:22 p.m.

@JackieL and @braggslaw - One of the problems with the MME numbers is that they do not take into account how long a student has been in a specfic district or their attendance in classes. To compare apples to apples, those are pieces we really need. If a student spent from K-11 in one district, then we know their progress from schooling is from that district, on the other hand if a student has been in a school only a few months, the impact maybe from several districts. Based on some Florida research, the lower your income the more often you move and more days of school you tend to miss. Doing another level of research on these numbers may be helpful in building remedial programs and understanding some of the root causes of the difference. Household demographic would also be useful, but it would invade privacy. Maybe the UofM or EMU could undertake to do that level of research in a way that does not cause privacy issues. I want all children to succeed.


Wed, Jun 9, 2010 : 6:56 a.m.

Braggslaw -- The district puts out a report that includes the 11th grade MME scores. It comes home with high school kids but I am sure it is on line somewhere. They break the scores down by school, subject, race/ethnicity, gender, special ed, economically disadvantaged, LEP. The highest scores are Asian & Caucasian and the lowest are special ed then African American & economically disadvantaged. Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Multi Ethnic, and Other are in the middle. So, same schools, teachers, classrooms,etc. but very different results.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

I feel that school of choice is a good thing and I can not understand why other people feel like it's a problem, it's a choice if a person wants to send their child to a different school district or not. I have been sending my children to another school district for about 6 years so I feel that it's my choice to better my children education and environment.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

There is a small part of this story I disagree with. I graduated from Ypsilanti H.S. and live near the area Ms. Green speak of. My children attended and graduated from the Van Buren Public Schools District and I am very proud of that fact. Out of 7 years total for both of my kids (now adults), they never experienced whatever "West Willow" effect that she is speaking about above. My daughter did 4 years of band (great band program by the way-Thanks Mr. Taylor & Campbell) graduated and attends a top Michigan University. My son currently attends WCC. So, if her kids (as she claimed) experienced this affect...I am extremely unsure why. Van Buren School District HAS excellent schools. In addition, Belleville High School prepares its' students for education, beyond high school...which is a necessary fact today. This comment does not contain any opinion, for or against, Ypsilanti High School or its' current staff.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

@sh1 - What statements on the Detroit Schools? I don't ever remember posting on that topic. So I am at a loss. I want to see Robert Bobb or someone succeed in helping the schools there do better, we need Detroit to work for Michigan to work.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 2:58 p.m.

Jackie, Could you provide a link. I find it hard to believe. Thanks


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.

I am not sure it is the teachers either, braggslaw. Looking at the 2009 Pioneer MME math scores, 25% of African Americans were proficient while 83% of Caucasians were proficient. That is the same school district, school, teachers, textbooks, etc.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

Article on Detroit public school test scores.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

sh1, anecdotes combined with the worst graduation rate in the state and the worst standardized test scores in the U.S. lead to a rational conclusion.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 7:34 a.m.

Anecdotes are wonderful for illustrating, but don't really provide statistical proof. Sorry you happened upon some duds, but one bad apple...


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 6:59 a.m.

sh1, I have given three presentations in the Detroit Public Schools regarding careers. The students were great, interested in what I was saying and enthusiastic. My first experience with a teacher involved him putting his head down on the desk and falling asleep. All the students were making fun of him. My second experience involved a teacher that somehow made a connection between Malcom X and what I was talking about (there was no such connection). My third experience the teacher left the room for the hour I was there. My experiences left me less than impressed with the teachers in teh Detroit High Schools. It also saddened me because those kids have no chance.


Tue, Jun 8, 2010 : 6:35 a.m.

Don Bee, I know teachers who teach in Detroit. They would be offended by your blanket statements about teachers and the union in Detroit. They have chosen to teach in a difficult district and face challenges every day. When is the last time you spent a day in a Detroit public school?


Mon, Jun 7, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

A2Reality. My point about the Detroit Public Schools is that they would be better off watching Jeopardy all day. There is not doubt the lack of involved parents is part of the problem, but there is no doubt in my mind that the teachers and the teacher's unions (as well as the thieving administrators) have done their part to make the Detroit Schools the worst in the U.S. The Detroit schools have become a public works project not a teaching institution. They exist merely to provide jobs in the city. If being the worst doesn't make you change things, I don't know what will.


Mon, Jun 7, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.

@Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball: Please remember that it isn't solely the responsibility of the teachers to keep the children in school and to make sure that they are doing a good job in their studies. Parents play an enormous, and IMO far more significant, role in this regard as well. Using your statistics, Detroit hasn't achieved "30% graduation rates" and "50% or more functional (il)literacy" solely because of the teachers and public school system there. The parents and social networks in those schools clearly aren't supporting the children in those schools and are likely undermining the work done by those teachers. With that type of foundation, you can send the kids to public, private, charter or monasteries and you'll likely get similarly poor results.


Mon, Jun 7, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

Happy Fun Ball - can you name one thing (other than perhaps street names) that remains in Detroit as it was in the 40s-50s-60s?


Mon, Jun 7, 2010 : 10:48 a.m.

Can anybody point to an unbiased data source that indicates performance is better at charter schools than public ones?

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Mon, Jun 7, 2010 : 6:55 a.m.

@ lisa - Does you argument work for Detroit public schools? 30% graduation rates; 50% or more functional literacy; I wonder how many graduate and actually can not read? It was not like that in the 40-50-60's. Our kids need better than the current system. Somehow, the School Unions argue that they are never to blame, they are always doing a public good and as such are always innocent, they are just underfunded and need higher salaries and more assets. Detroit spends more per child than any other public school district in Michigan - yet the results generated are perhaps the worst in the entire country. The 'public school system' fails. Not the Teachers mind you - just the system. The US ranks low in world test score not because of parents or teachers but because the 'system' allows for it.


Mon, Jun 7, 2010 : 2:54 a.m.

Charters are LEAs and they have to take special ed because they are public schools. They approach criminal behavior themselves in taking federal and state money and then neglecting and/or actively driving out special needs children, they take from regular public schools and throw away a lot of money on low quality education. It's not surprising that it was a charter that had the kid killed by the bus driver's negligence, and it's not surprising that it was at a charter that the teacher got suspended for trying to choke a student. A for profit model for education? A model for profiteering is more like it. No regulation. How gullible people are.

Jay Thomas

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

As I pointed out in the comments of a past article on this subject, this is really about "social change" and has absolutely nothing to do with improving the AAPS. I want to thank William Price for admitting that much in the article. It's about West Willow students going to school in Ypsi -- and when they have an integrated school bus system with us, then a flood of students from Ypsi coming to Ann Arbor. A de facto integrated Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti public school system. Why would Ann Arbor need this? Unless it wants more schools with "achievement gaps" that then need to be overcome (which we haven't been able to do at Dicken or other schools as it is). At election time they will ask Ann Arbor residents to vote for new school millages that will COST US, but not the school of choicers from other communities. Districts with different funding levels (much higher in Ann Arbor) and thus rates of taxation... but anyone can go anywhere. Sounds REAL FAIR. Thank goodness our wise and forward looking leaders are looking out for us. Keep up the good work. If this becomes reality, I'm sure a lot of people who bought houses in Ann Arbor for the highly rated education system will be able to get the same thing for less out of town. This was a selling point to buy in Ann Arbor. I think something like half of all city employees don't even live here now. Might as well encourage more people to leave (you can still use what Ann Arbor has to offer and pay less, right). We already have a mayor who spends his time thinking up ways to make it easier for people TO NOT LIVE IN ANN ARBOR (ten million dollar trial runs for choo choo trains to Howell and transportation centers below the hospital so it's employees can commute to work from Canton or wherever... when they used to live here). So now our school board and Superintendent want to help promote that exodus as well. Is there anyone looking out for Ann Arbor? Because it doesn't seem so. Just hidden agendas and ulterior motives. At least this article FINALLY lays out what this is really about: sending poor students westward for their schooling. Which CANNOT BE DONE without integrating their school transportation system with the A2 buses. It was never about saving money for Ann Arbor like the AAPS leadership said. This will cost thousands more for every student based on what we spend on average and get back from the state. It will also bring in more students who are performing at a lower grade level of academic proficiency (requiring even more $$ than the average for remediation/special ed). Some places might need more competition in schools. I don't think Ann Arbor is that place. The test scores show that we are doing fine compared to the rest of the state. This whole plan is nothing more than a Trojan Horse and I'm sorry so many people have been fooled by it.

L. C. Burgundy

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 8:41 p.m.

@ local and others: I have no particular problem with networks of charters with catchall public school fallbacks. If the kids don't want to learn and the parents aren't involved or otherwise interested, they probably will end up at the less desirable schools. I'm not sure this is bad.

thinking outside the michigan box

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

Steven- I'm sorry your family had to go through such a disheartning experience with the charter school. For those who are interested in learning more about charter schools please refer to Michigan Association of Public School Academies at According to MAPSA facts: Only 10% of charters have special education services. So, maybe charter schools aren't the best place for children with special needs to receive an education. How about keeping children with special needs in the public schools...schools whose classrooms are filled with teachers who want to be there. Teachers who have a heart for special needs children and view them with value and integrity. Teachers that will help them achieve their potential. Teachers who won't think of these children as "brats or dumb", as was mentioned in a previous post. I am the mom of a special needs child and hope one day a public school such as this will exist. I also hope to see more charter schools develop for those children who are academically inclined. These special kids shouldn't have to wait until high school to take advanced classes. Why not have specialized schools starting in elementary? We all develop at a different pace. Quoting from MAPSA"Charter schools are set up so excellent teachers are rewarded and retained in the best interest of what works well for students." Both charter and public schools are funded by the public. Why not have a combination of both?


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 7:49 p.m.

@ local, if you have a kid who misbehaves and you suspend them, you actually aren't much better than the charter. The kid needs to have a BIP, a behavior intervention plan, run to improve the behavior so that they don't misbehave and stay in the classroom so they can learn, not suspend them. If you are actually a teacher and don't know this, that's just sad. Sending the home after they have been aggressive will probably make them more aggressive, so bad policy. Refer the kid to WISD if you don't know what I am talking about. Charters will be the coming scandal of education in the next few years. I think Steve experience is common enough.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 6:31 p.m.

Steve Harper, you are correct. These charter schools say they are public, but they treat kids and families as if they were private schools. I am a public school teacher and we take all kids who come our way. We have kids throwing things at teachers, telling teachers off, etc.. but we can't do anything but suspend them, and then they are back a few days later. If we excluded a child because of a disability or simply because the child misbehaves, we would be in big trouble. However, the charter schools can basically do what they want. If any of the above scenarios took place in a charter school, they would be forced to leave and end up in one of our public schools classrooms to try to educate. Funny how that works!!


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 6:26 p.m.

Steven Harper Piziks: Charter schools in the State of Michigan are created as public entities and as such must abide by all state policies, including financial, pertaining to traditional schools. Charter schools must maintain a fund balance at the end of the school year. I'm not sure if there are for profit charters or perhaps these should be aptly called private schools.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 6:18 p.m.

Wow, Steven. That must have been a horrible experience for your children and for you. It is great to hear first hand about this happening locally. My sense has been that charter schools just don't provide the services very well or at all for special education students so they return to the traditional public schools. Looks like it is a lot more direct than that. Did you realize that you could file a complaint with the ISD and then with the State?

Christopher Lock

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 6:18 p.m.

As a 7th Grade English Teacher and Department Chair in South Central Los Angeles, I might add something to the conversation: Out here, Charters appear by the dozens each year, many with additional millions of dollars from corporations or philanthropists genuinely interested in improving education. Schools with a few extra rooms may suddenly have a charter growing in their halls, legally restricted from stopping their take-over, like a cancer that will draw the best students out of your class into a well-meaning corporate magnet. Charters appear in old buildings and increasingly take new taxpayer-built campuses. Some are wonderful, some fail and are closed after a year or two, most try this or that "revolutionary technique". Parents who are actively involved in their child's education work to move their children into these schools, sometimes by lottery, what with their corporate sponsored computer labs and very young, idealistic teaching staffs. While the passion is inspiring and authentic, many of these teachers struggle under increased hours and corporate pressure to achieve under various models and burn out after a few years, since sustainability isn't such a concern. New recruits fill their ranks. Some studies have shown that attracting the children of involved parents, extra funding, union-resisted innovations and different pay scales has, in many cases, raised achievement. But there are no "magic bullets" and plenty of other studies show very little improvement over a few years time. Like medicine, if there was a "sure fire formula", we'd all be using it. I know that this disappoints believers of "forcing them to simply teach the new way", but learning is a mysterious, wonderful art, and there is no "one size fits all". I can tell you what happens to students who don't make impressive gains on Charter test scores (we get them) as well as Teach For America (they leave after their two year adventure, just when they're getting the hang of it. Always) and other insights on the Community Wall or Education under the headline "Beware what you wish for". If you don't have time, let me give you the gist -- with L.A. as a warning, once you break it, you can never get it back.

Steven Harper Piziks

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 5:05 p.m.

Charter schools can and do make life extremely difficult for less desirable students. My sons were at Fortis Academy. When my youngest started showing behavior problems in kindergarten, their sole response was to suspend him. A =kindergartener.= They would not discuss other options, they would not call me or my wife to talk about ways to improve the situation, they would not schedule a meeting with the school social worker, they would not talk with the school counselor, they would not recommend an outside child counselor. The only thing they ever did was suspend him. My middle son had an IEP, which Fortis consistently refused to follow. His teachers would not modify assignments as they were supposed to do. They did not communicate with me, despite my repeated attempts to do so. When the school planned a class trip, they decided my son couldn't go because of his handicap, without consulting me and in flat disregard for his IEP, which stated he was to be included in all class activities. His handicap in no way would have prevented him from participating in the class trip, and he was tearfully disappointed when he learned he was being excluded, but Fortis had decreed it so, and so it was. Ultimately, we removed them from Fortis and enrolled them elsewhere. Fortis, a charter school, made it quite clear they did not want our children there. They did their absolute best to hound us out, something a public school cannot do. Oh yes--Fortis Academy is a for-profit charter school. Run as a business. Profit first, education second. Students with challenges not desired. So Lisa has it absolutely right, and the "schools should be a business!" people have it terrifyingly wrong.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 4:57 p.m.

Lisa, I am sure the schools in North Korea and Cuba are great. The public good was to make everyone equal... that is equally poor. Arguments for the public good are usually based on what's "good" for that person making that argument. I can think of no better result than parents researching schools that best fit their kids. The poor are the ones cursed with poor public schools because they do not have the resources to send them to private schools. For example those poor kids who attend public schools in Detroit don't have a chance. Some of the highest per student funding in the state with some of the worst results in the entire country. Graft, unions, thieving administrators etc... the whole darn thing should be blown up.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

Lisa, I am sure the schools in North Korea and Cuba are great.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

Box, Public schools are by law required to take everyone in their area. But the school choice crowd wants market forces. They want choice. The problem with choice is that means that the schools have choice as well.. charter schools are required to take everyone who applies (or wins the lottery if they are over subscribed) but they do not always (for example: and yes, it is much easier for them to expel the undesirable.. those who have behavioral or academic problems. School choice will result in the exclusion of those kids.. or at the least, the seclusion of them in bad schools.

thinking outside the michigan box

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

I think it's about time the "monopoly" the public school system has had on education is changing. I am especially interested to hear of the upcoming specialty high schools. Choice for students and their families can only lead to better educated students. @Lisa...Public schools are unable to refuse admission of disabled students due to federal law. What is your definition of "kids who are brats or kids who are dumb? It makes me upset to even type the word dumb related to a child...and you are a teacher? Choice can't come quick enough!

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

Say it plain, There are posters here (and apparently some quoted in the article) who firmly believe that education is a business, that the most important thing is 'competition', 'customer experience' and to open schools up to 'the market'. Education is NOT a free market. It is a public good. A public good is not limited in availability... just because one person avails themselves of it does not mean that another's usage is limited.. and anyone may use it. It is not for profit. If we were to commodify education, to make it a private good or service and answerable to 'market forces', then it would become exclusionary, rivalrous and for profit. To some extant, this is what is happening in New Orleans (do keep in mind that there are large numbers of mostly poor and minority children who never returned after the hurricane). After Katrina, the public school system had to rebuild itself; the schools had been terrible and they were a physical mess. They chose the latest fad.. the charter/public model. That is students can go to any school that admits them and the district pays for it. However, the charter schools can put strict rules on admissions like require volunteer hours from parents, tight behavior codes or require kids to be there at 7 am or anything else they want. Any parent or child who fails to uphold these rules is kicked out. Those kids whose parents missed the deadlines for applying, who can't meet the requirements or were kicked out are left attending the public schools.. which basically have the worst of the behavior problems, the special ed and the negligent parents. Because only 11% of the student population is in public schools, they no longer have the resources to tend to these kids properly. Our current system is not ideal. As seen in Texas, state determined curriculum can mean huge dispareties between what is taught and what isn't. We need a national education system (like all of the countries who beat us) and a national funding system. But taking our public good and making it a private one will only make it worse.

David Jesse

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

@Me Next: Charter schools are public schools and receive state aid money just like the traditional school districts

say it plain

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

@Lisa, c'mon...nobody is implying that we want schools to be able to deny admission to anybody for any reason. I don't understand your argument really. What prevents kids from getting into charter schools? Just the limited number of slots in any given one, correct, and families' abilities/willingness to take the extra time/expense to transport them there and negotiate the enrollment processes, right? Same for schools of choice, no? Private schools create much higher barriers, of course, and there's your 'free market' of education I suppose, where all the nasty market-driven forces can reign free. But why wouldn't setting little fires under the behinds of schools that suddenly have higher percentages of kids whose families cannot look for better educational opportunities be a force for good in improving education generally? Is it because the 'dumping ground' phenomenon makes it harder to get the test numbers high enough to satisfy the powers that be? Is it because when you get that many children together from families who don't care about their children's education enough to get them out of schools that don't do a good job then it is "hopeless" to provide them with decent education? Don't the kids who would qualify to be 'dumped' in that scenario have perhaps special educational challenges/issues that might be well addressed in schools dedicated to supporting kids without the 'kinds' of families, or without the 'kinds' of dispositions, as you seem to put it, that would afford them the opportunity to go to charter schools or schools of choice? I'm just trying to understand your points specifically about schools of choice and charter schools. I don't understand how finding a school that feels "right" for your child and does what you judge to be a "good" job educating him/her is somehow evil. Do you believe we all should either accept a one-size-fits-all public education or else go to private school?! Wanting choice and wanting educators to be thoughtful about what they are providing students seems like a good thing, not like a market force analogous to gallon-sized portions of soda...

Me Next

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

I am at a loss when it comes to "Charter Schools". I thought they were private schools, run with private money. Excellent Reporting, except that (in my case). National interference with "Local run schools" has made Public Schools "market-driven enterprise". Which is why children are so protected, the law-abiders have no protection. Which is why the shift from Law required availability for 3 Rs to Social Engineering & group mentality. From misuse of Normal Child Development where friends & groups normally enter the child's life. Any public employee that believes school is a business should be fired & lose all perks ( by Law they never should have had) for merchandising children. Real Ed. is a public service to parents of the children & funded by county/parish taxes requiring a vote in order to check for accountability for that service place. I fully support "Free Market". That's real life. Taxes spent on advertising is stolen money & should be billed to the individuals that authorized it. One price ($2,000/child/school year) from the State (If Fed contributed 1/2 of that to the States with the only string being it must be only for the 3 Rs instruction or material - I'd support that). One price from State ($2th...) to each local for basic 3 Rs only. Any "specialty" should be private schools & private donations. Seems to me the "Corporate Method" is supported here but on taxpayers back. This will bankrupt everyone because No one is risking their own money & taxpayers vote is bypassed. Growing problems means more tax dollars & therefore you get more problems instead of even Basic Service for the student. Basically educated, the student can then choose their own path of self-determination that sustains self- sufficiency as adult.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Specious at best.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

Market forces have supersized our fries and our drinks. Market forces have created monstrosities like the Double Down with 32 grams of fat. Market forces led to the housing bubble. Market forces led to the insane inflation of college tuition. Market forces led to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. Market forces often do not lead to things that are good for the community. Education is NOT a business or a market. It is a public good. To commodify education, to make it a market is to make it unavailable to all. To make education a market would bring some consequences that I don't think you really want. If education becomes a free market... the school districts can then refuse to enroll kids with disabilities, the school districts can then refuse to enroll kids who are brats, the school districts can then refuse to enroll kids who are dumb, the school districts can then refuse to enroll kids whose parents are jerks and if you deny those abilities to school districts, then it is not a free market. Can we fine kids who don't do their work, behave badly, miss school, are rude, wear their pants too low? Private schools act like this. Public schools can't because if we did, there would be entire groups of students who would never be educated. Many public schools (especially those in poorer areas) would become, like they have in New Orleans, the dumping grounds of those who can't get into charter schools, private schools or better schools of choice. Do you really want a free market?


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

Its interesting that school districts are willing to open up their schools to students in other districts, but resist any notion of charter schools offering options to students. Charter schools have demonstrated the ability to provide good quality educational services so its time that our state government lift the cap on charters statewide.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

I like the competition but I think the state and county need to address the tax issue involved with this.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 8:31 a.m.

Do I understand this correctly? Taxpayers in certain communities pay higher taxes for their schools but other communities can take advantage of that and send their children to those schools? That doesn't even make sense. Then why in the world would a township/city vote to raise their own school taxes for those who don't even live in their community?


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

A great trend, It will force schools to work for the benefit of students not unions and administrators. I don't understand why Lincoln, Willow Run and Ypsi are separate school districts to begin with. The next move should be to vouchers so students and parents can choose whether to goto private schools.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

Time to consolidate the county to 1 district. Then let people choose until schools are at capacity. *ducking* I know this goes against many traditions. I also know that some people feel this will wreck school sports and might cause some districts to lose some money. The efficiencies of 1 school board, one superintendent, one set of... would help with overall costs and focus more money into the classroom. If people want to move around, we should make it easier, and cut overhead at the same time.


Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 7:30 a.m.

This trend is good. Competition for customers improves the consumer experience.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Sun, Jun 6, 2010 : 7:28 a.m.

Competition is just what the school districts need. Better schools affect everything - home prices, companies re-locating, even student confidence.