The State of Private Schools in Michigan

Survey provides new information about this unique education sector

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ben DeGrow
Director of Education Policy

MIDLAND — Michigan’s annual per-pupil foundation allowance appropriation is about $750 million less than it would be if students in Michigan’s 601 private schools attended public schools instead, according to a new survey released today by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Center, with the help of the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools, surveyed private school administrators in Michigan and received responses from 334, a response rate of over 50 percent. The information provided in the report helps fill in a gap about what is known about private schools. These schools are widespread, operating in 70 of Michigan’s 84 counties.

“Private schools educate over 100,000 students in Michigan. Thus, it is important to understand the makeup and characteristics of these schools,” said Rachel White, a coauthor of the report. “This report provides new information about private schools that should be useful for policymakers, educators and parents.”

The survey also sheds light on the demographics of Michigan’s private schools, finding approximately 98 percent of the state’s 8,000 private school teachers hold either a teaching certificate or bachelor’s degree and that the average pupil-teacher ratio is 14:1. Based on survey responses, the average tuition rate is about $4,700 per year for elementary and middle school students (36 percent less than the state’s foundation allowance) and about $7,800 for high school students.

State data shows more than 113,000 students were enrolled in private schools in the 2014-2015 school year. But survey results suggest these schools have immediate capacity to accommodate about 21,000 more students than they currently do.

Almost three-quarters of private school administrators said their school would likely participate in a voucher or tuition tax credit program to make their schools accessible to more students and families, if the state were to create such a program. Though voucher, tuition tax credit or similar programs exist in a majority of states, the Michigan Constitution currently prohibits all forms of programs aimed at making private school tuition affordable to more families.

“The survey responses suggest that Michigan has a relatively diverse group of private schools,” Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center and coauthor of the report, said. “Many schools have a unique mission, focusing on a particular instructional style or specialized curriculum, but all of them help educate students in Michigan and it’s important to learn more about them for that reason.”

White will discuss the survey and its findings in greater detail at an Issues and Ideas Forum June 2 in Lansing. The free event includes lunch for registered guests. For more information or to register, visit the Issues and Ideas Forum page.

A PDF version of the full study can be found here: A Survey of Michigan’s Private Education Sector.

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