A new analysis of Michigan schools concludes private enrollment increased by 11% last year. The analysis estimates approximately 7% of Michigan students attend private schools.
The switch to private schools and Michigan’s stagnant population growth create a cognitive dissonance between the state’s recent record-breaking increase in public school expenditures.
The Detroit News and Associated Press conducted the analysis, which was reported by the Detroit News on Thursday.
More than 101,200 students currently attend Michigan’s private schools, which is a jump of 10,261 more students over the previous school year when 92,926 students, or 6% of the state’s total K-12 students, received private education.
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According to the Detroit News, “The growth in private school enrollment comes as Michigan continues to deal with a decades-long overall fall in enrollment and a declining birth rate that is also challenging the state’s K-12 public school system.”
Despite the decreasing public school enrollment numbers, Michigan continues to increase per-pupil spending in the state. For example, the 2023-24 state budget signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer increased the Michigan foundation allowance by 5% or $458 per student. That bumped the base per-student allocation to $9,608 whereas public virtual charter schools received only $9,150 per student.
The 2023-24 school budget swelled to $24.3 billion.
Michigan K-12 public school enrollment dropped by 8,811 students over the past school year. That’s a drop from 1.5 million students to 1.38 million students. The News article says Michigan K-12 students fell 9%, or 131,482 students, over the past decade. Public school enrollment over the past 10 years has dropped approximately 10%.
Holly Wetzel is the public relations director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. In an email to The Midwesterner, she said the Detroit News/AP analysis doesn’t surprise her.
“An increasing amount of families are rejecting the traditional one-size-fits-all approach of conventional public schools,” Wetzel said. “As more families continue to embrace different educational options that best fit their children’s needs, coupled with declining birth rates and population loss, Michigan public schools are continuing a two-decades-long trend of enrollment declines. Despite receiving record levels of K-12 funding in recent years, more money has done little to nothing to help solve the problem of public school enrollment, or improve students’ academic achievement.”
The Detroit News/AP analysis corresponds with a similar analysis conducted by EdChoice, which reported 5% of U.S. K-12 students nationwide are enrolled in private schools, compared to 3% homeschooled, 8% public charter schooled, and 83% traditional public schooled. Forty percent of respondents said they prefer to send their school-age children to a private school.