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As Michigan kids head back to school, things are looking a little different. The cap on charters has been lifted, so there are thirty-one new school choices for families in the state this year. There are now 276 charter schools in Michigan, 100 of which are authorized by public school district and twenty by public universities.
Michigan Mom Jacquelyn Stevenson chose the Timbuktu Academy in Detroit for her children. As she said “I wasn’t pleased with the traditional Detroit Public schools and charter schools my kids already attended. But since they’ve been attending Timbuktu, they’re getting a lot more one-on-one attention, and their grades have improved.” Over the past five school years, enrollment at charter schools has risen to 20%, while enrollment in traditional public schools has fallen. These charter schools are mostly located in southeastern Michigan, where parents are looking for different options.
Some charter schools focus on certain areas of learning. One will partner with the Detroit Medical Center, one will highlight Chinese and Spanish language immersion programs. There is a school for incarcerated students and one for a local Hispanic community among others. All of these choices are forcing public schools to compete. Grand Rapids has launched the “We are GR” campaign to encourage parents to choose public schools. Flint schools are also reaching out towards parents in an attempt to increase enrollment. Bill DeFrance, chief operating officer for the district said "This [ad program] was our initial attempt to show that we are the best choice. We’re focusing on the things we do well and how the competing schools are not as well rounded as we are."
This competition only leads to better education for children. Dan Quisenberry, president of the state charter school association said “We certainly look at the growth of charters as responding to a need that parents articulate to us about improving the quality of public schools. We want to make sure that all kids have a high quality education.” There will be even more choices in Michigan next year, with companies such as KIPP and Rocketship Education considering opening new schools in the state. With all these new competing, Michigan kids win.