In 1999, the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency (Wayne RESA) had 34 public school districts with 670 schools, more than 50 charter schools, and 169 private schools.
A total of 349,678 students attended traditional public schools in Wayne County during the 1998-99 school year, with approximately half (173,792) of these students attending Detroit Public Schools.24 During the 1998-99 school year, 14,493 Wayne County students attended charter schools, many of which have waiting lists.25 If Wayne County's charter schools comprised a separate, independent school district, that district's student population would make it the 7th largest in the state.
In addition, 2,125 students chose alternative public schools in Wayne RESA during the 1998-99 school year under the "schools-of-choice" program. The number of "schools-of-choice" transfers is limited by the supply of empty seats in existing districts and the willingness of districts to participate in the program. Only 10 of the 34 Wayne RESA districts chose to participate in the "schools-of-choice" program in 1998-99. 26
The districts decide how many children they will accept and at which grade levels and schools. The demand for these transfers often exceeds the supply, so schools hold an impartial lottery to determine which students will be given the chance to transfer. Interviews with Wayne RESA superintendents revealed that additional districts are considering participating in the "schools-of-choice" program in the future and that some districts are considering expanding their participation.
Both charter schools and the public "schools-of-choice" program have enabled thousands of Wayne County parents to choose their children's schools for the first time, even though their choices remain limited to certain schools within the government system.