‘Choosing Charters’ Website Launched by Michigan Think Tank

Published January 1, 2016

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank headquartered in Midland, Michigan, launched a new website in November promoting charter schools in the state.

ChoosingCharters.com features facts, statistics, and video interviews challenging popular misconceptions about charter schools.

Michigan currently enrolls an estimated 150,000 students in charter schools, many from lower-income families in urban areas such as Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids. The website reports 70 percent of Michigan charter school students come from low-income families, compared to 44 percent of those attending traditional public schools.

“Despite the best evidence showing charter schools are helping students achieve more, charter schools have come under attack recently as some politicians and their supporters have declared them a failed waste of money,” said Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center’s director of research. “But these critics don’t typically ask parents what they think of these schools they’ve chosen for their children, and our new website is an attempt to give those parents a voice so that their educational options are not swept out from under them.”

Gary G. Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a bipartisan school choice advocacy group, lauded the Mackinac Center effort.

“The Mackinac Center site is needed to increase awareness of educational options in Michigan,” Naeyaert said.

‘Tremendous Educational Gains’

Citing findings from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Naeyaert says charter schools in urban areas are making tremendous reading, mathematics, and graduation gains compared to traditional public schools.

Although charter schools are relatively new in New Orleans, for example, they achieve a graduation rate 20 percentage points higher than traditional public schools, according to the report. The same study reports mathematics scores for charter school students are 42 percent higher than those students in traditional public schools, and charter students performed 35 percent higher on reading examinations. 

Michigan charter schools currently educate 53 percent of all students in Detroit, giving it the second-highest percentage of charter-school-educated students in the nation, behind New Orleans, Naeyaert says. He says Flint is third in the nation, with 47 percent of students attending charter schools.

Despite these numbers, charter schools barely register on many parents’ radar, if at all, Naeyaert says.

“Charter schools in Michigan began only 20 years ago,” Naeyaert said. “But there’s a vast majority of parents who don’t understand there exist educational alternatives for their children beyond the traditional public school monopoly.”

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute.

Image by Ilmicrofono Oggiono.

On the Internet

ChoosingCharters.com, Mackinac Center for Public Policy: http://www.choosingcharters.com/