News Story

A Better School Just a Mile Away, but Parents Don't Get a Choice

Canton Township subdivision appeals to state superintendent

Robert Luce lives in and pays property taxes to Canton Township. On a daily basis he watches school buses from the Plymouth-Canton school district pass by his house.

However, the subdivision where Luce lives is located within the jurisdiction of the Wayne-Westland school district. This is also the district to which Luce and his neighbors pay school taxes.

An elementary school in Plymouth-Canton is one mile away from his home, Luce said. The closest Wayne-Westland elementary school is four miles away.

“It makes no sense,” Luce said.

For parents it makes a great deal of difference though, and not just because of geography: According to a school performance analysis by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Plymouth-Canton has better schools.

Like Luce, other residents of Luce's Parkview Estates subdivision (which has about 40 homes) also want to be within the Plymouth-Canton school district. Together, they petitioned the district to make it happen. Attorney Joe Horka handled the case for Parkview Estates and said both the Plymouth-Canton and Wayne-Westland school districts denied the residents' petition. Horka said an appeal with the Wayne County RESA (an intermediate school district to which both regular districts belong) was also denied.

Now, the people who live in Parkview Estates are taking their fight to the office of the Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction, which has scheduled a hearing for Friday.

Plymouth-Canton School Board President Judy Mardigian and Vice President Adrienne Davis did not return emails seeking comment.

Luce said the most important part of the debate is a parent’s right to get the best education possible for their children, and Plymouth-Canton schools are much better than Wayne-Westland schools.

“Every parent wants their kids to have the best education possible,” Luce said.

To get a truer picture of how much learning individual schools provide, the Mackinac Center's school performance analysis adjusts test scores to reflect the socioeconomic status of students. It gave 10 of Wayne-Westland's 15 elementary and middle schools a “D” grade. Four scored “C”s and one had a “B.” Plymouth-Canton school district had 20 of its elementary and middle schools graded. There was one school with a “F” grade, two with “D”s and 14 with “C”s, one with a "B" and two had "A"s. Plymouth-Canton’s three high schools received “B”s. Wayne-Westland’s two high schools received a “C” and a “D”.

The elementary and middle school grades are based on data from 2009 to 2012. The high school grades are based on data from 2010 to 2013.

Plymouth-Canton does allow students from adjacent school districts to attend 12 of its elementary schools under a state "schools of choice" law. Under this law parents are responsible for providing transportation for their own children.

Kyle Olson, founder of the Education Action Group Foundation, Inc., said the idea that government can assign children to specific schools based on where they live is antiquated.

“To me, it’s ridiculous,” Olson said. “There’s this belief that every school is of equal quality and every teacher is of equal quality. That was the rationale of having a system of schools where you are assigned to a school based on where you live. Clearly that is not the case. Today, we have data to show that there are schools that are better than other schools. Here, you have parents who are saying, 'I want my child to go to this school because it is better quality.' You have the state saying, ‘No. We have these artificial borders that we set up.’ It is such a disservice.”

Olson said the solution is to put the child and the parent at the center of the equation and “allow the dollars to follow the child.”

“But if that is what a parent decides to do and a school district can’t stay open, then that school district should have closed a long time ago,” Olson said.


See also:

Study: Michigan Students Benefit from Using 'Schools of Choice'

Almost 220,000 Michigan Students Rely On School Choice

Results - Not Dollars Spent - Matter For Parents Choosing Schools For Their Students

School Choice Benefits Students

Inconvenient Truths About School Choice

Michigan Needs To Choose School Choice