Parents who are able to make active choices in the education of their children report greater satisfaction with their children's academic achievement, and studies have shown a positive correlation between parental involvement and student performance. Likewise, competition among schools has led to improvements in school curricula and greater responsiveness to parents and students as schools begin treating them as customers.
Parental participation and satisfaction is most important. John Witte conducted a definitive evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and reported that in "all five years, parental satisfaction with choice schools increased significantly." Witte was able to conclude from his research that "the overwhelming conclusion is that choice parents are significantly more involved in the education of their children" than are government school parents in Milwaukee.148
School choice has improved academic performance for many students. School voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland have demonstrated success among their students, according to a number of recent studies. 149
Limited school choice through government charter schools continues to be popular, particularly among the most needy families. Charter schools remain popular with parents, students, and teachers. Many of Michigan's charter schools have waiting lists ranging from 200 to 1,000 students.150 In mid-1999, charter schools in Michigan enrolled more than 30,000 students. Of those students, more than 50 percent were minorities and many of them were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.151
Competition encourages improvement in all schools. When two large charter schools opened in the mid-Michigan area in the 1996-97 school year, the Lansing School District "lost" over 700 students to these government schools-of-choice. As a result, the district began to implement new programs and launched an advertising campaign to tout its new and improved offerings. The exercise of choice by less than five percent of the district's student population generated better programs for the over 17,000 students who remained in the traditional government schools.152