Recommendations: Increase Choice and Competition in Education

The positive effects of competition among Michigan public schools noted by this report as well as previous studies of charter schools lead to several recommendations for encouraging further improvements in education for Michigan children.


1. Remove the cap on the number of charter schools state universities can authorize.

The benefits of competition to public education from charter schools is directly related to the bold steps taken by many state universities to authorize the majority of charter schools throughout the state. However, the benefits of charter-school competition continue to be impeded by the legislative limitation placed on the number of charter schools they can authorize. The charter school option should be available to more Michigan children, which will further improve the education of our children.

The Michigan Legislature should remove the 150-school limitation imposed on universities and allow for the expansion of charter schools. It should also consider the creation of an additional authorizing entity (perhaps a statewide charter school commission) and allow current charter schools to utilize multiple sites under one charter.


2. Expand the public "schools-of-choice" program to include all public schools and require districts to release state funding for exiting students.

Choices for students among traditional public schools and districts remain extremely limited. Significant barriers continue to prevent children from choosing an alternative public school, particularly when the assigned district refuses to release state funding (known as the "foundation grant") for a student to attend an alternative public school in a different district.

The Michigan Legislature should remove the barriers that prevent children from choosing among all public schools. No child should be denied the opportunity to attend a safer or better public school. In addition, if an alternative public school will accommodate additional students, districts should be forced to allow the state foundation grant to follow every student who chooses to leave their assigned school district.


3. Exempt public schools from onerous statutes and regulations.

Public policy should free traditional public schools from burdensome regulations to help them better compete with charter and private schools. If teachers and administrators are granted the freedom to adapt to the diversity of students who come before them, they will be better able to provide an array of educational programs that will address the varied ways children learn.

The greatest form of accountability is "consumer sovereignty," not "political accountability" through more rules. Therefore, the Michigan Legislature should craft education policy that holds schools accountable to parents and relieves teachers and administrators from onerous statues and regulations.


4. Eliminate discriminatory language from the state constitution that penalizes parents' choice of private schools.

The next logical step for improving K-12 education in Michigan would be to expand school choice by providing financial relief for parents who choose private schools for their children. Allowing Michigan families more choices in how and where their children are educated means that parents and students—as consumers—can further improve the public schools while educational opportunities expand for all children.

Under the current system, parents who choose to send their children to a private school must pay twice—once in taxes for government schools they do not use and again in tuition for the school they do use. This financial penalty prevents the majority of Michiganians from exercising their rights as parents, as it is only the wealthy who are able to afford such financial choices.

Article VIII, Section 2 of the 1963 Michigan constitution—added by amendment in 1970—prevents the majority of Michigan parents from choosing the safest and best school for their children by prohibiting tuition vouchers or tax credits for K-12 education. Michigan voters should remove this amendment that impedes wider choice and competition among all Michigan schools—government and private.