MIDLAND, Mich. — As families across the state struggle with deciding how to educate their children this fall, a recent legislative deal from Lansing bucks popular opinion by restricting families’ options. According to a new statewide voter survey released today by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, support remains strong for a variety of public and private educational options.
Since each district determines its own back-to-school plan, parents would have a number of different options available to them. Using the state’s Schools of Choice program, parents can find schools that meet their needs best. The Mackinac Center’s survey found that 62% of parents favored the Schools of Choice program, with 59% favoring expanding it. Twice as many Michigan voters say the state has too little educational choice as those who say there is too much.
Unfortunately, newly adopted state legislation discourages districts from welcoming transfer students. Since this year’s student count will only determine 25% of foundation allowance funding, districts are no longer inclined to accept new students and only one-fourth of the usual funding that comes with them. This funding disparity puts both in-person educational programs and successful virtual schools at a funding disadvantage.
As schools across Michigan continue to adapt, many parents are looking at alternative education options. A new video produced by the Mackinac Center features three different families who are each taking a different approach to education this fall. All agree that while there is no perfect solution, they had to decide what was best for their children.
“It’s a really hard, unchartered time that we are in right now and I think any decision you make is the right one for your family,” said Amanda S., a parent featured in the video who is enrolling her children in the virtual academy through Midland Public Schools.
Survey results also showed strong support for parents who make choices outside public education. Six in ten voters favor allowing 529 education savings plans to pay for at-home learning expenses, while 55% back the Education Freedom Scholarship proposal that would provide federal tax benefits for donations that fund a student’s private educational expenses.
As more families decide to educate their children at home, it would be beneficial to most families to have some way to offset the cost. Lawmakers should look at expanding access to education savings accounts and 529 savings plans.
“More than ever, Michigan students need flexibility right now to access the best available learning opportunities,” said Ben DeGrow, the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy. “Our elected officials need to listen to parents and other community members who recognize the important value of educational choice.”
You can find more information on Michigan parents’ options for learning at home here.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
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