Parents in Lansing Township have a choice when it comes to their children’s education, and some school districts like Waverly Community Schools are benefiting from being one of their options.
According to the Michigan Department of Education website, School of Choice gives students the option to choose where they attend school. Through this state law, families can enroll their students in a school outside of the district in which they reside. Once a student is accepted to a school through school of choice, they can stay in that district until they graduate from high school or decide to leave.
School districts do not have to participate in School of Choice.
New legislation was added for the 1999-2000 school year that allowed a student to attend any participating school outside of the school district they live in, as long as the intermediate school districts, also called educational service agencies, are contiguous. Carol Easlick, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education, said that this addition to the law was similar to the School of Choice passed in 1996, but expanded the choices even farther.
“Before that it had to be within an intermediate school district,” said Easlick. “Only if the district participated in school of choice.”
This means that students in the greater Lansing area can attend any school within Ingham Intermediate School District. They also have the option of attending school in any district that borders Ingham Intermediate.
Bruce Johnson, director of student services and operations at Waverly Community Schools, says that School of Choice is “a way for parents to have a choice.”
“They just want a choice to go to a different school if they don’t have a chance in a different area,” says Johnson. “It just gives them an option.”
School districts also choose whether or not to participate in School of Choice. Districts can choose either limited or unlimited enrollment options, or choose not to participate in the School of Choice program. If schools choose to participate they have to follow certain protocol when enrolling students.
Waverly is a limited enrollment district, which allows them to set a specific amount of students that can enroll through school of choice. According to the Michigan Department of Education website, a district can allow students to enroll for 15 days. After applying, the district has another 15 days to decide who can fill the remaining enrollment places. If more students apply than the district will enroll, then a random draw will be used to fill the positions.
Other districts choose unlimited enrollment, which has a longer application process. Also, unlimited enrollment must take any student who applies to the school as long as they meet the qualifications.
Any students that are enrolled through school of choice add to the enrollment size, which helps the school district financially. Districts do not receive additional funding for incoming transfer students above the per pupil amount they get from the state for each student in the district.
Johnson said that about 446 students attend Waverly through school of choice, a majority coming from Lansing area.
For Waverly, having a limited enrollment school of choice program helps. Johnson said that school of choice helps by keeping their enrollment numbers at their highest.
“The kids that we get are good students,” said Johnson. “In general it’s been a positive step for us.”