Michigan Lawmakers Exercise School Choice More than the Public

Published November 1, 2000

Earlier this year, The Heritage Foundation conducted a survey to determine whether elected officials exercised school choice at a higher rate than the population at large, where about 10 percent of families send their children to nonpublic schools. The report revealed that 49 percent of U.S. Senators and 40 percent of U.S. Representatives responding to the survey have sent or are sending at least one child to private school.

Now, a study of Michigan legislators by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has revealed a similar picture of lawmakers exercising school choice at a far higher rate than the public.

Michigan legislators send their children to private schools two to three times as often as Michigan parents do. Of legislators with school-age children, 33 percent of senators and 24 percent of representatives responding to the Mackinac Center survey send or have sent a child to a private school. Of the legislators who serve on education-related committees, one-third choose private schools over public schools.

In a 1995 study, education analyst Denis Doyle found that public school teachers send their children to nonpublic schools at a higher rate than the nation. For example, in Detroit, teachers send their children to private schools at nearly twice the rate of Motor City parents in general. In Grand Rapids, 41 percent of public school teachers chose private schools for their children versus 27 percent in the city as a whole.

“What is the public to think when those who know the public schools best send their children elsewhere in such numbers?” asked Joshua R. Pater, an education policy researcher with the Mackinac Center. “What would we conclude if it were discovered that 41 percent of chefs don’t eat in their own restaurants?”

Al Davis, public schools superintendent for New Orleans, recently removed his daughter from her public school and enrolled her in a private school.

“That’s what she needs right now,” Davis told the Times-Picayune. “People do what’s best for their kids. Choice is good.”