MIDLAND, Mich. — The lack of affordable and reliable transportation options is a barrier for some low-income families seeking access to a quality education. A new study from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy analyzes this problem and offers solutions that would provide better educational options to those that need it most.
The Center proposes the creation of Student Mobility Scholarships, student-based transportation funding that would help offset the cost of transporting students to a school of their choice. Nearly a quarter of K-12 students in Michigan attend a charter school or use Schools of Choice, but many more have their choices limited by inadequate transportation options.
The city of Detroit is a prime example of the need for more transportation options for students. More than half of the city’s school-aged kids choose not to attend the school they are assigned to. But nearly all these students have to find their own transportation to the school of their choice, with the majority being driven by a family member. The Detroit Public Schools Community District is unlikely to help, especially considering its transportation services cost 50% more per student than the average Michigan school district.
Student Mobility Scholarships would provide a limited-use, digital debit account to participating low-income families who live at least one-and-a-half miles from the school of their choice. Families could use those funds to pay for public transit, state-approved ridesharing service or some other form of transportation service. School districts and charter schools could also qualify for this funding if they served these students. These scholarships would give low-income families options that otherwise would have not been available.
“Critics sometimes point to transportation barriers to claim that educational choice policies aren’t fair to all families,” said Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center and author of the study. “Enabling the neediest families to come up with their own workable transportation solutions can further expand the benefits of educational opportunity by helping more kids grow in a school that works best for them.”
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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