The exclusivity of suburban schools that spend the most

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to make any open seat in any public school district available to students no matter where they live has many school systems understandably anxious, as The Detroit News reports in a lengthy story today. The News highlights the fear among struggling school districts, who have the most to lose when parents decide to vote with their feet, but its reporters unearthed another fact that speaks more to the exclusivity exhibited by the suburban districts that have kept their doors closed to all but their wealthiest residents.

School districts in Michigan have been able to open their doors to students in other systems since 1996, but most have restricted enrollment to students living at least in the same county, and 11 have refused to participate in the state’s Schools of Choice effort altogether. Those 11, the News has found, also spend the most per pupil of any district in the state, and they consist primarily of Michigan’s toniest suburbs — Gross Pointe in Wayne County and Bloomfield Hills in Oakland County, for instance.

Bloomfield Hills superintendent Rob Glass was more reserved in his comments about Snyder’s plan in today’s story, but he recently showed the Detroit Free Press how his district is oblivious to the challenges facing low-income families. Residents in Glass’ district pay “extra taxes to provide extra levels of education to their local community,” the superintendent said. “To make that same option available to others who have not made that sacrifice or that choice to invest doesn’t seem fair.”

However the Legislature decides to act on Snyder’s plan, here’s hoping its members have a different sense of what constitutes fairness in public education from Mr. Glass.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit

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