An urban wasteland in the industrial Midwest shows how a portfolio approach to public education can inspire even the most disadvantaged families to “shop” for the right school.
Nearly three-quarters of parents in Detroit have shopped for a school for their child, whether the options included a traditional public school, a magnet school, a charter school, or a private school, according to a think tank in the Wolverine State called Michigan Future Inc. Moreover, fifteen percent of the families the think tank surveyed opted for a public school outside the district.
“Seventy percent are actively shopping rather than letting the government tell them where to go—that’s huge,” Michigan Future President Lou Glazer told The Detroit News.
Glazer says the study represented one of the most aggressive attempts nationally to further explain how families, especially those who are low-income, think about their school options in an urban area. Researchers spent last summer knocking on the doors of 1,073 households to collect data on 1,699 schoolchildren, eighty-five percent of whom were black and sixty-eight percent of whom came from households where incomes that fell below $30,000.
The Detroit school district has lost more than 100,000 students in the past decade, but fifty-five percent of the families interviewed said they sent their children to a district school. Twenty-three percent opted for charter schools. The fifteen percent of families who chose schools outside Detroit took advantage of a state law that allows cross-district enrollment.
Forty percent said they chose their school based...