Readers of St. Clair Shores Patch have a wide range of opinions on the effectiveness of the Schools of Choice program.
Their comments followed the introduction of legislation in the Michigan Senate that would mandate that districts statewide participate in the program.
Senate Bill 624 was introduced by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) and is part of a large package of bills slated as educational reform by Gov. Rick Snyder.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Education and is part of a package of five drafted bills. Its passage is contingent upon the passage of the other four.
All three St. Clair Shores school districts participate in the Schools of Choice program, which allows out-of-district students to enroll.
Candace Mazurek commented on Facebook, "Good for schools when done properly - look at and the growth they have had. It has opened up opportunities for students that would not have existed otherwise. I don't think it should be a mandate though - we need to have local control over those types of decisions."
Under the current system, districts have control over how to implement the program and to whom they want to offer the opportunity to enroll. Senate Bill 624 essentially edits 1979 Public Act 94 that allowed public schools the option to invite out-of-district students to enroll in their district.
The draft of the newly introduced bill calls for local districts to determine their own capacity.
Although the district would still be determining capacity, the bill outlines a specific time frame in which it must be completed. According to the draft, the capacity for each grade, school and special program would be determined no later than the second Friday in August.
If there were seats open beyond those students in the district, districts would then be required to publish a list of the open seats by grades, schools and special programs.
Out-of-district students, which are limited to students within Michigan, would have 15 to 30 days to apply and the district would be required to notify those admitted no later than by the end of the first week of school. Districts will also be required to maintain a waiting list if there are more applicants than available seats.
If enrollment changes before the school year begins or within the first week, districts must admit out-of-district students from the waiting list. If there are more open seats than those on the waiting list, and the district receives more applications further into the school year, the district may wait to enroll the student until the next semester or trimester.
Patch readers including Geri Calabro Hofmann, Robert Neil and Kelly DeKeyser Spanick are against Schools of Choice.
"Don't like the school of choice thing," Spanick wrote on Facebook. "I tried to get an extra set of books to come home with my child cause he has ADHD," she wrote. "They don't have enough books to go around cause of over enrollment. We pay the taxes for our schools. If you want a better school. Move to the district. Otherwise stay out!"
Shores resident Dawn Ewald Biddle likes School of Choice program, but believes it should limited to resident in the city.
"I think at least for the shores that only the kids that live in the city should be allowed to go to the schools there," she wrote on Facebook. "My daughter is going to ublic schools and we live in the South Lake district, I will never send her to that district knowing how bad their scores are. I am actually considering moving closer to her school!"
Heather Stinson raised the issue of local taxes and having non-residents attend schools in another community.
"I do not have children, so maybe I am missing something, but I know that some people move into an area for the school system," Stinson wrote. "Now having said that - Why is it ok for Eastpointe, etc. people to send their children to school in the Shores when the school they are paying for with their taxes is in another city?"
Other comments posted on Facebook include:
- Jenelle Drada wrote: "Not only is school of choice bad for our community, it's bad for our students. Schools tests scores are going down, and violence is going up. Nevertheless, that is the districts choice and the government should not force it on anyone. I don't blame Grosse Pointe at all."
- Karen Krueger Nikolai wrote: "School of Choice sounds good in theory, but really does nothing except get federal/state money for the receiving district. It ends up being bad for districts on the losing and gaining ends. The districts that have a large number of students deserting are in a bad spot because as they lose students, they lose money and thus need to make cuts and then really start in a downward spiral. There was an interesting article in the Detroit News a while back on this. SL was even used as an example. In addition to all that, I am all for communities being able to control their own districts. More power to GPPS."
- KellyAnn Kopp shared: "School of choice is just a way for the districts to make more money. It is the reason the "sub groups" are pulling scores down. If the districts managed their money more efficiently they would not need to participate in school of choice. Take a look at the waste by the administrations i.e, trips, new office furniture, carpet. It is disgusting!"
- Jennifer Koles-Monday wrote: "I live in South Lake district but my kids go to Lakeview schools. I believe that school of choice makes schools more competitive. The schools strive to get better scores which enables them to draw in more families that are looking for quality education for their children. The school receives the money from the gov. In turn having the ability to provide an excellent learning environment for their students.
It is working for and their test scores prove it!"
- Reader Nicole Tringali Kempski wrote about how the influx of students have caused crowded schools: "I have kids at and . Right now Jefferson is so over crowded that there aren't enough desks or lockers for the students, the kids can barely get to their classes and they haven't even gotten their books yet because they have no where to put them. Lunch is over and there are still kids waiting in the hot lunch line! My daughters kindergarten class has 30 kids (and 30 each in the two other classes!) I understand more kids= more state money...but they are not equipt to handle all of these kids. We (the people who actually live here) pay good taxes for these schools and my kid cant even get a desk to sit at! Good for GPPS for fighting it. I hope the other schools wise up and do the same!"