Download audioSchool Competition Works

In 1994, when Michigan passed its charter-school law, many school districts feared that competition for students might hurt public education. But not Dr. Jeremy Hughes, superintendent of the Dearborn City School District. Hughes came up with an idea that could compete with charter schools for students: "Theme Schools and Academies."

Dearborn City Schools adopted their own curricular themes such as character education, creative arts, technology, extended school year, and gifted and talented. Parents could pick a curricular theme they liked, so they wouldn't go looking outside the district's schools.

Today, despite competition from four charter schools, Dearborn City Schools have increased enrollment by more than 2,000 students. There are now more than 170 charter schools across Michigan lighting a fire under traditional public schools to do a better job for our children.

Yet, charter opponents have blocked efforts to remove the "cap" on the number of charter schools state colleges and universities can establish. It's time to acknowledge what a Michigan State University study recently stated: that "The debate over whether to have more choice in the public schools in this country is essentially over. The positive parts of choice are just too powerful."

For the Mackinac Center, I'm Catherine Martin.