KALAMAZOO, Mich. — More than 20 percent of Michigan public school students attended charter schools or schools outside of their districts last fall, according to a published report.

MLive.com (http://bit.ly/2bx43xU ) analyzed state data on where kids attended public school last fall semester and found that 144,000 attended charter schools, which typically are run by private management companies but get state aid like traditional public schools. Another 182,000 students were in public schools outside their home district.

“More people are voting with their feet and finding a school that meets the needs of their families,” said Ben DeGrow of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a think tank in Midland and proponent of school choice.

School-of-choice programs can have a negative impact on budgets, especially in struggling urban districts, because state aid is based on enrollment. More than 60 percent of students in the Westwood Heights district in Genesee County came from outside, many from Flint.

School districts don’t have to accept students from outside their boundaries, but new kids fill empty seats.

“When schools of choice started, as an educator, I wasn’t for it at all,” said Salli Stevens, Westwood Heights’ superintendent. “But as a superintendent, it’s made our bottom line a lot healthier.”

Grand Rapids accepts students from elsewhere, but the district loses some, too.

“It’s a vicious, downward cycle,” Grand Rapids district spokesman John Helmholdt said. “You lose students, so you close schools, and because that upsets parents, you lose more students. … It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

A 2014 study by Education Trust-Midwest found that some students who left the Detroit district, which had to be bailed out this year by state lawmakers, landed at charter schools or other districts with poor results.

“Choice alone is not enough to improve educational outcomes or close achievement gaps for poor kids or kids of color,” said Sunil Joy, an analyst at Education Trust-Midwest, an education policy group based in Ann Arbor.

DeSiree Morgan-Lyons of Flint is pleased with her choice. She transferred two daughters to Linden Charter Academy from Flint public schools.

“The kids were rowdy and it seemed like nobody cared if the kids didn’t want to learn,” she said.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com