Choice of schools means weighing options early

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If you had the choice to send your children to a school in a different district, would you do it?

Schools of choice is a concept that has been around for more than two decades within the entire state. It was fostered in 1994 as part of a school finance reform bill. Even 20 years after Michigan started offering the schools of choice option, decisions don’t come easily.

Terah Chambers is a MSU professor in the Education Department who worked on the community bond committee

Jonathan Shead

Terah Chambers says this bond issue is important to her as a parent to a East Lansing kindergartner.

Terah Chambers, associate professor of K-12 educational administration at Michigan State University, researches schools of choice and said there are so many factors parents consider when deciding on schools of choice. Some districts have good programs to weigh such as art, dance and sports. Aside from programs, academics plays a big role, too. Chambers said parents want to send their kids to school districts that exceed in test scores and overall performance.

Chambers said that when she and her husband decided where they wanted their son to attend school, they chose the East Lansing school district because of its diversity and how well it prepares its students for the future. She wants her son to grow up in an environment where he feels most comfortable and is surrounded by students and faculty of diverse cultures and ethnicities.

While schools of choice can financially benefit districts that gain students, it also harms other districts that lose them. Each student brings in  $7,200, meaning districts that gain have more money than sender districts. This is a huge factor when comparing schools and districts.

Chambers said schools of choice is a lottery system. When you apply, you’re actually applying to the state of Michigan. The state will review your application. You are not limited to the number of applications you submit, however they do have the power to deny your application if your child has a record of discipline issues in the classroom or other provisions. It is a first-come first-serve process, and once your child has changed schools you cannot change districts again, you may be able to go back to your designated district.

Chambers said the best time to apply for schools of choice is when your child is approaching kindergarten or first grade. Most students at these ages will be moving around to other schools and districts as well, so it will be easier to move your child sooner rather than later.

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