In Michigan, More Poor Families Taking Refuge in Charter Schools

While we’re all arguing about right-to-work in Michigan, there’s also a little right-to-choose battle going on with their schools.

Earlier in the month, 71 school district superintendents signed a letter fretting about those disconcerting “untested and unproven” education reforms that don’t yet have a “track record” like public schools do. This is meant to be a criticism of charter schools, not an endorsement, apparently. You can read here and marvel at their attempts to make charter schools look like a bad risk without providing any factual information to back up their fears.

But they do have one paragraph that made the nonpartisan, free-market friendly, Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy take note:

Instead, the choices we have created through market-based reform have produced cookie-cutter public school academies serving middle class students while creating a permanent underclass in our inner cities. Why? We believe that families struggling to maintain a roof over their head and food on their table simply do not have the resources to shop around for educational opportunity.

Have a good laugh at them criticizing charter schools as being “cookie-cutter.” Beyond that irony, there’s an actual factual claim in there -- The old canard that school choice allows those middle class families to flee and deprive poor students of the better education. But does it check out? The Mackinac Center runs the numbers in their Michigan Capitol Confidential and discovers it doesn’t. Not by a longshot:

But state of Michigan data for the 2011-2012 school year shows there is a higher percentage of free- and reduced-lunch eligible students in charter schools than in conventional public school districts. Charter schools had 69.8 percent of students on free- and reduced-lunch statewide while 46.2 percent of the students statewide in conventional public schools were on free- and reduced-lunch. That data is from the Center for Educational Performance and Information. Students qualify for free- and reduced-lunch based on their household income.

In response, one superintendent said they were referring to inner city poor kids. (that’s an interesting racially-coded argument, isn’t it?) Michigan Capitol Confidential drilled down to the data on just the school districts represented by the superintendents who signed the letter. The percentage of students in charter schools on free and reduced lunch was still higher than those in public schools.

In Detroit, the numbers were fairly similar – 78 percent for charter school students, 81 percent for public school students. Also of note: Only 7 percent of eighth-graders in Detroit’s schools are rated as “proficient” in reading. The national average is 29 percent. In case any superintendent wants to invoke the “inner cities” argument again, the average for other large cities is 21 percent (pdf). Why any public school superintendent would actually want to invoke “track records” when arguing against charter schools is quite the mystery.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Earlier in the month, 71 school district superintendents signed a letter fretting about those disconcerting “untested and unproven” education reforms that don’t yet have a “track record” like public schools do.

    If I were a public school admin, I don't think I would draw too much attention to things like track records.

  • Almanian.||

    But the public school model is "tested and proven"!! Also...class size! And...um....CERTIFICATIONS!!!11!

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    But the public school model is "tested and proven"!! Also...class size! And...um....CERTIFICATIONS!!!11!

    My class size is two. And both -- pre-teens -- recently took and passed their first CLEPs.

    The public school "track record" is why they aren't in one.

  • ||

    But it's a proven track record!

  • sloopyinca||

    Yes. They've proven to be inept. But they've also proven to be shrewd negotiators donors, making their track record irrelevant.

  • sloopyinca||

    I still hold several track records at my old high schools. (I went to three of them)

  • ||

    Oh yeah, tough guy? What was your mile time? Your 400m time?

  • sloopyinca||

    4:40 in the mile. I didn't run the 1/4 mile, but my best time in the 800 was 1:52.

  • ||

    Damn, Ken, that's pretty fucking good. Really fucking good. You killed my mile time. The 800 is the second most horrible torturous race in existence, only beaten by the 100m butterfly in swimming. Which I did.

  • sloopyinca||

    I got to college and my coach there told me I was too white to run the 800 and that I wouldn't get any better. The fucker told me he wanted me to focus on the 3000 and 10000 meter races. I told him to go fuck himself after one season and I never raced again until much later in life.

    It's a shame I didn't find another school where I could do my thing. I could have been a pretty good mid-distance runner if I wasn't so hard-headed.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If I knew then what I know now, I'd have killed my track coach and dumped his body in the lake when he told me I was running the 880 -- we didn't go in for that new-fangled metric stuff -- and if the 100 butterfly is worse I'd have just let myself drown. Of all the crappy crap I went through in high school, the 880 is the crappiest.

  • sloopyinca||

    Man, I loved the half mile. It was just enough distance to get rid of the genetic freaks who didn't have to think their way through a race, yet short enough to keep my mental focus throughout.

    My most rewarding race was a 1/2 mile that I ran in 2:01 (hardly my best time), because I beat a better runner by manipulating him the entire race. You don't get that in the 400 or the mile very often.

  • Cytotoxic||

    You play mind games while you're running?!?!

  • sloopyinca||

    Running =/= racing.

  • ||

    I'm an incredibly strong swimmer, and after one 100m butterfly I had to lay down on the bench with a towel over my head for ten minutes to just be able to get up again. I used to puke after the 400m sprint sometimes, but the butterfly went past puking into passing out.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    Butterfly is harsh because speed requires all over body effort not just legs or arms. I used to swim the 400 IM, and my last year of varsity I made it to state because I could make up the time I would lose on butterfly in back. I hate running with every fiber of my being though.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I think the bigger story is that sloopy went to three high schools at once and still managed to turn out like that.

  • ||

    "Look. I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I'm no dummy."

  • sloopyinca||

    Freshman at one high school. Sophomore through February of my senior year at the second and the last 3 months at my third. Fortunately, the first two were only 10 miles apart but the third one was a long way away.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    It's not that weird. I did freshman year at a private school in San Francisco, first half of sophomore in Green Bay, second half in Valparaiso, first half of junior in a different school in Valpo (they moved the district line over the summer), second half of junior and my whole senior year in Hobart. I also managed to attend 3 different junior highs, and five different elementary schools...always the new kid with the weird accent.

  • sloopyinca||

    I think the bigger story is that sloopy went to three high schools at once and still managed to turn out like that.

    I was doing a reverse kinda thing based on this quality movie from the 80's. Only I played a man, a woman and a hermaphrodite at my three different schools.

    BTW, whatever happened to the chick from that movie? IIRC, she had a nice rack.

  • Almanian.||

    Yeah, the retard is strong in Michigan on many fronts. Still a lot of work to do.

    The good news on the school front - from my perspective - is just how far along the charter school have gotten, both in the number of schools and the percent of the population enrolled in them. Was very tough sledding early on - it's grown by leaps and bounds since then.

    Still - RACIST!1!

  • BakedPenguin||

    Watching Waiting for Superman or The Lottery should cure anyone of the notion that public school vs. charter is even a close battle for inner city kids.

    Watching the elation - and heartbreak - that came with receiving (or not) a spot in a charter school was eye-opening for me.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ugh. English, how does it work? "...should cure anyone of the notion that public school vs. charter is even a choice for inner city kids..."

  • R C Dean||

    English, how does it work?

    You're asking us?

  • Way Of The Crane||

    Did anyone happen to notice the other day that the Brookings Institute ranked DC 3rd out of 107 cities and suburban areas for school choice? Keep in mind that the District eliminated their title 1 school choice program 4 months ago.

  • sarcasmic||

    The old canard that school choice allows those middle class families to flee and deprive poor students of the better education.

    Yeah. Better that everyone get a crappy education than there be inequality.

    Egalitarianism always boils down to the lowest common denominator.

  • Hugh Akston||

    We all stand in the same bread line, Tovarisch. Except for Party members, naturally. Someone needs to tell the bakers how much to bake.

  • Tonio||

    Better that everyone get a crappy education than there be inequality.

    Yep. This is what proggies actually think: Because inequality is allowed, then the system will never get fixed. Forcing everyone to share the misery is the only way to fix the system.

    See it's the intentions and narrative that matter.

  • NoVAHockey||

    I responded to the argument that my efforts are need to improve the system by noting that "I'd never even seen that girl before. That kid's not mine."

    It went over as well as you'd expect.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Educrats tend to take "Harrison Bergeron" as an instruction manual.

  • ||

    I really, really had to take a poop on my way to work today. It was a great relief when I finally got here and was able to give birth to a brown basketball-sized chocolate mud baby.

    I just really didn't have anything to say about this topic, so thought I'd share what was on my mind.

  • Jordan||

    Sandi, is that you?

  • ||

    How many Kourics was it?

  • sloopyinca||

    Is Michigan like Ohio when it comes to the %age of kids that attend private schools? I remember when I was growing up, a rather sizeable % of kids went to Catholic schools instead of public schools. Is that still the case, I wonder?

  • NoVAHockey||

    I just might hate public schools more than social security. And I loathe social security.

  • ||

    I must be illiterate because I have no idea WTF that button means.

  • R C Dean||

    Me neither, if that helps.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement