1. Surveyed Schools Said They Could Have Accommodated Additional Students in the 1998-99 School Year

Survey results show that Michigan’s privately funded schools could have accommodated tens of thousand of additional students during the 1998-99 school year. The 342 schools participating in this study indicated that they had room for an additional 20,603 students (Table 1). Many of these schools also indicated that they were operating below their full capacity and willing to enroll more students.

2. Projections Indicate All Privately Funded Schools in Michigan Could Have Enrolled over 55,000 Additional Students in the 1998-99 School Year

Based on survey results, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy projected classroom space for an additional 55,744 students in all of the state’s privately funded schools during the 1998-99 school year (Table 2). This is well above projected need calculated by one school choice proposal, which estimates only 33,000 additional students would need to be accommodated at nongovernment schools for its program to be fully implemented.2

3. Privately Funded Schools Are Willing to Enroll Additional Students and Expand to Accommodate Future Demand

The majority of the 342 surveyed schools not only responded that they could immediately accommodate additional students, but they also said that they were willing and able to expand their facilities to accommodate additional students, if and when future demand required it (Chart 1).

Of the schools that said they were unwilling or unable to expand, the majority qualified their answers. Most responded either that they were limited in their ability to expand existing facilities or that they preferred the current small size of their student body.

Schools willing and able to expand indicated that they were "prepared to grow according to demand" and that they could "make necessary adjustments to handle large influxes of students without sacrificing" educational quality.

4. Privately Funded Schools in Michigan Could Help Ease Student Overcrowding in Government-Funded Schools

The U. S. Department of Education projects that many school districts will experience student overcrowding in the next decade, with K-12 enrollment at government-funded schools increasing three percent between 1998 and 2008.

Many urban and suburban Michigan districts are already experiencing overcrowded conditions in their schools. Some policy makers have suggested that privately funded schools could alleviate the problem by accepting students from overcrowded public schools. Proposals to facilitate this include tuition reimbursement (vouchers) or tuition tax credits, each of which would reduce financial barriers that prevent many students from attending privately funded schools.

In 1997, Congress asked the U. S. Department of Education to study the benefits and costs of, and barriers to, using privately funded schools to help alleviate overcrowding in government-funded schools. The Department examined 22 urban communities across the country and found that privately funded schools could, in fact, ease enrollment in overcrowded government schools by as much as four percent. Mackinac Center for Public Policy research of privately funded Michigan schools (Table 3) supports the Department of Education’s findings.