The best way to improve the
efficiency of Downriver public schools would be to offer parents schools of
choice; a choice for their children. Under a schools of choice system,
parents choose which school to send their children to, and their public tax
dollars follow. The schools of choice concept has been successfully implemented
in New York's Spanish Harlem and Minnesota, and has been proposed in
The literature explaining
the virtues of choice in education is substantial and need not be repeated
 However, a brief summary of the argument may be valuable.
The best reason for
allowing schools of choice is that it creates competition among schools for
students. Public schools that perform
well would attract students and expand, while schools that do not perform well
will lose students and shrink, or eventually disappear.
Elimination of the
government's monopoly on education would also benefit students, although this
development is not likely to occur anytime soon. It is worth noting that a
substantial number of private Roman Catholic elementary and high schools
continue to thrive Downriver despite this monopoly.
There are substantial
restrictions at the state level for offering schools of choice. Parochial
schools are prevented from receiving state school aid funds under Article 8,
Section 2. of the State Constitution of 1963. The State Aid Act, Public Act 94
of 1979, does not allow non-religious private schools to receive the per pupil
state aid which public school districts receive. Private schools, as well as
public schools could compete for students if this act were amended at the state
The act does not allow
state aid to cross public school district lines. However, it is possible for
school districts to contract with each other to allow students from any district
to attend any other school district. The State Aid Act provides that the
accepting school can receive the state for that student, if the district in
which the student resides approves. If the 17 Downriver communities agreed to
allow students to attend any school district in the area, this would open up the
region to a wide range of schools.
At a minimum individual
school districts should allow parents and students a choice of schools within
the district. Such a move would not
be nearly as positive a force in improving the area's educational quality as
allowing choice across districts, but the range of choice would be sufficient to
improve quality, especially at the K-6 and K-8 levels.