Michigan students need options

Michigan students need options

More than 60 students, educators and policymakers from across Michigan braved winter weather last week to celebrate National School Choice Week at the state Capitol. This annual event to raise awareness about the many education options in the Great Lakes State was sponsored by the Mackinac Center, Parent Advocates for Choice in Education, the Great Lakes Education Project and other key partners in the education freedom movement.

The event highlighted the benefits of school choice and importance of bringing greater educational opportunity to families in Michigan. Among the schools in attendance were Michigan International Prep School, Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy and Success Virtual Learning Centers of Michigan. Representatives from the homeschooling community also attended. Rep. Jaime Greene met with students and discussed the importance of expanding access to more diverse education options.

Several students shared stories about the critical role school choice has played in their lives. Andrew, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwood University, spoke about his homeschooling experience. When Andrew was in preschool, his mother noticed a regression in his learning and decided to homeschool him. From that moment on, he thrived in his home learning environment. He worked with mentors in different subjects and developed career skills by networking with professionals. These experiences brought Andrew the confidence he needed to be successful in college. His mother continues to homeschool his five younger siblings.

Unfortunately, homeschoolers in Michigan face impending legislation that could place new regulations on families like Andrew’s. Lawmakers and State Superintendent Michael Rice are pushing policies that would require all school-aged children, including homeschoolers, to register their type of schooling with the state. They claim this homeschool registry would help ensure the safety of all students. But they have yet to provide evidence that homeschooled children are less safe than their public school peers – or that such a registry would somehow protect children in need. It would, however, put an extra burden on families like Andrew’s, who are simply trying to provide the best possible education for their children.

There are many students like Andrew who choose educational options that suit them better than the public school system can. They get a chance to reach heights that would be unattainable for them in a conventional school. Yet many families can’t afford alternative education options. Unlike families in most other states, Michigan families are not allowed to use government funds to cover private school expenses. This is due to a discriminatory amendment in the state’s constitution that prevents public dollars from funding nonpublic schools.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is continuing its battle to repeal the so-called Blaine Amendment and allow public dollars to fund private education. Success stories elevated at National School Choice Week events show why we need to bring greater educational opportunity to Michigan families.

Editor’s note: This article originally was published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

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