Reaction mixed on mandatory schools of choice

HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. — Harbor Springs Public Schools wants to have the “right size” enrollment for its budget and programs, the district superintendent told the Harbor Light newspaper, a goal that may or may not be affected by a proposal for mandatory “schools of choice” across Michigan.

Gov. Rick Snyder has suggested that all public school districts be required to accept students from other districts if they have space available, the Harbor Light reported. Right now districts have the option to offer seats to nonresident students.

Supporters say a mandatory program would mean more children could attend higher quality schools, The Detroit News reported separately, but critics said it would take away local control from districts.

Harbor Springs used to have an open-door policy, but ended it several years ago for financial reasons, Superintendent Mark Tompkins told the Harbor Light.

The district is one of relatively few in Michigan that are funded primarily through local property tax revenue instead of per-pupil aid from the state, Tompkins told the Harbor Light. In recent years, as taxable values and tax revenue declined, additional students would have increased costs without increasing revenue, he said, the Harbor Light reported.

However, at this point the district is seeing a steady decline in its own enrollment, so opening the doors to students from other districts might help preserve programs and extracurricular activities, Tompkins told the Harbor Light.

Elsewhere, some Grosse Pointe Public Schools residents are objecting to the plan, calling it an issue of local control, The Detroit News reported. Others said that districts that object to open-door policies simply don’t want to deal with students enrolling from poorer-performing districts, according to The News.


Harbor Light, “Schools of choice may be forced on Harbor Springs by state legislation,” Aug. 31, 2011

The Detroit News, “Choice, local control at odds in Michigan schools,” Aug. 28, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Grosse Pointe State Rep: Public Schools Must Control ‘Who is Allowed to Attend,’” Aug. 30, 2011