The research presented below relies upon empirical data from the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency (Wayne RESA)—the intermediate school district of Wayne County, Michigan—and data provided in state-generated publications. Because empirical data do not and cannot demonstrate the "attitudinal" shift that competition has created, anecdotal data also were gathered through interviews with district superintendents and charter school principals to illustrate, confirm, or test contentions made about competition in education.

The report focuses on the impact of competition in the Wayne RESA because it offers in microcosm the best, most diverse example available in the state. Wayne RESA is Michigan's largest intermediate school district and contains 34 urban and suburban school districts. It has more than 50 public school academies (charter schools) and also contains 10 school districts that chose to participate in the "schools-of-choice" program in 1998-99, the latest year for which data are available. Wayne RESA districts vary from very large to very small in size and from "best-in-the-state" to clearly dysfunctional in quality. Thus, the Wayne RESA makes an excellent subject for assessing the impact of limited competition in education and provides a snapshot of what may be occurring across the state.