Do parents really want school choice? Ab-so-lutely. According to a Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency report titled “Explaining School Choice,” when given the ability to choose their children’s school, Michigan parents are exercising that choice at increasing rates.
From 2002 to 2008 the percentage of students not enrolled in their state-assigned school rose by 69 percent. In limited fashion, parents can move their kids out of their address-based assigned school through open enrollments among districts or enrolling them in magnet or charter schools. This accounts for 11 percent of all Michigan public school enrollments. National trends follow the same pattern. From 1993 to 2003, the percentage of students enrolled in their state-assigned public school fell from 80 percent to 74 percent.
However, the SFA report doesn’t take into consideration the number of parents exercising school choice through private schooling or home schooling. The Center for Education Performance and Information collects data about private schools and home schooling and in 2008 there were more than 136,000 privately schooled or home-schooled students in Michigan. There are probably more home-schooled kids in Michigan than this, because the state does not mandate that parents report the number of kids they home school. Nonetheless, adding this figure into the SFA’s calculation yields that 18 percent of Michigan students are enrolled in a school of their parents’ choosing.
What does all this mean? Parents want school choice! They might not all agree on how to provide choice (charters, open enrollments, magnets, vouchers, tax credits), but when given the opportunity, Michigan parents increasingly demonstrate their desire to choose where their kids go to school. Legislators, listen to these parents and give them more choices when it comes to schooling their children.