BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. - More than 3,000 students in Berrien County attend a public school other than the one to which they are officially assigned, according to the Niles Daily Star. Some area districts gain hundreds of students through these schools-of-choice programs, others hold even and others see enrollment declines, the report said.

A preliminary report released by the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency for 2009-2010 listed incoming and outgoing students in each district, the Daily Star reported. The largest figures were reported in Benton Harbor Public Schools, where 1,296 students left the district to enroll elsewhere, and 11 students chose to join the district. In contrast, Berrien Springs added 534 students and saw 11 leave, according to the Daily Star.

Niles Community Schools Superintendent Doug Law told the Daily Star that research in his district showed that, at the elementary level, parents who live in one district may enroll their children in another because of child care arrangements. At the high school level, he said, it's more often due to athletics, curriculum or a negative reaction to something in the assigned district.

Schools of choice programs are important because state funding is primarily based on enrollment, the Daily Star reported.

Law told the Daily Star that the programs create a barrier to school cooperation, while  Jeff Siegel, BESA superintendent, said that the programs are popular with parents and that, "Districts need to review why they are losing students or what successes they've had with attracting students."

SOURCE:
Niles Daily Star, "Schools of choice snapshot shows some districts struggling," Jan. 13, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "DPS enrollment down by thousands," Feb. 23, 2007

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