Michigan Governor Calls For More Parent-Friendly Open Enrollment (a la Colorado)

Open enrollment is something I haven’t told you much about lately, but now it’s in the news as Michigan’s governor looks to break down a barrier to parental choice and educational opportunity in state law. The Detroit News yesterday highlighted Rick Snyder’s plan to allow any public school student access to an open public school seat, regardless of where they live:

“If all the districts have to open up the doors, then more may leave failing schools. This will present significant challenges for districts where students and parents have already left,” said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Since 1996, Michigan has allowed public school districts to open their doors to students who live outside their districts.

But participation by districts is optional. Just about every Metro district has decided to participate; 11 do not.

In essence, the Great Lakes State is considering whether to strengthen its existing open enrollment law. To approve Snyder’s plan would place Michigan more on the plane of Colorado, which has one of the nation’s very strongest and most parent-friendly laws. Citing a story from the Detroit Free Press, Adam Emerson at RedefinED catches hold of why many suburban school districts are so opposed to the suggested change:

Residents in [Broomfield Hills superintendent Rob] Glass’ district pay “extra taxes to provide extra levels of education to their local community,” the superintendent said. “To make that same option available to others who have not made that sacrifice or that choice to invest doesn’t seem fair.”

You mean, some public education officials see their schools as exclusive? Well, yes. Buy your way into the right neighborhood and pay enough property taxes (or at least live in a community where most of your neighbors do), and you have access to what is seen as a good school. But just how good is it? Hard to say. If most of the students come from affluent families, that can obscure just how much value the school adds to a student’s education and how close it is to reaching its productive potential. Keeping out the poor kids with learning challenges makes it harder to see how good the school is.

That’s where a top-notch open enrollment law — like Colorado has, and Michigan is seeking to adopt — can break down barriers. It’s certainly not the be-all and end-all of school choice: Competition is still limited to government-run schools in different neighborhoods. But it does a little more to expose just how effective individual schools are, and it encourages families to begin acting more as good consumers of education.

That’s where the School Choice for Kids website comes in to play. Check it out today, and learn more about the educational options available in Colorado and how to make use of them.