Michigan’s School of Choice law has aided East Lansing High School’s recent success but is causing problems for neighboring cities.
East Lansing schools offer well a rounded curriculum that includes a good athletic program, comprehensive academics and several extra-curricular activities. Finding education like that has been rarely seen at public schools. This appeal of a better education is drawing students from neighboring cities to transfer from there hometown schools to ELHS. This boost in enrollment is putting ELHS above other local high schools and is boosting its budget as well as many individual awards for students.
The ruling of School of Choice was made by the state of Michigan in 1996, but individual districts have the option on whether to allow out of districts students into their schools. With this rule of open enrollment a student that resides in the Lansing district has the ability to enroll at ELHS. The application is simple a student would just have to indicate name, grade, address, district of residence, and whether there have been suspensions or expulsions.
The City Pulse, a local paper, did an article on September 10, 2003 that researched how local schools were doing since Schools of Choice was enacted by the State Legislation. The 2002-2003 Ingham County School District research in the chart below, shows that the biggest winner is East Lansing and its neighboring city, Lansing, is on the losing side. In the article student Sofia Maystrenko explained how life is since she transferred out of the Lansing School district and is now having much more success at ELHS. She feels that the students at ELHS are more accepting of her and her hobbies and believes that she will have better success at her new school.
With East Lansing leading the pack of students enrolled in their district one can understand why the education infrastructure is doing so well. Good high scoring students who might have gone to a Lansing school are now choosing to attend an East Lansing school. Those students are boosting East Lansing’s credibility and in turn leading more students from other districts to transfer into East Lansing. It’s a cycle that builds up one district but punishes the others.
Last year ELHS was honored with many awards. They have a National Merit semi-finalist. There are many students that have earned Advanced Placement awards. Then at the end of last year ELHS was picked by US News and World Report to receive a Silver Award, marking ELHS as among the top 3 percent of all high schools in the country.
ELHS Principal Paula Steele is very proud of what her teachers and students have
accomplished in the past few years. The school district and the city is being recognized
for their efforts in bettering education.
Current students that live outside the district are the best source to understanding why they chose ELHS. Ben Barkman a senior lives in Lansing but attends ELHS. His reasoning for attending school in East Lansing was that his sister really wanted to go to ELHS so he just followed her but says, “I would have made the same decision all over again because I love ELHS, our sports everything just makes it a great place to go to school.”
Then there is ELHS senior Melissa Johnson. Johnson grew up in East Lansing and lived on Lexington Ave. until 7th grade, where her family decided to move to a country home in Alaidon Township. Johnson and her family had to decide what school district her and her sister would attend. The decision was between East Lansing, Okemos and Mason. The choice was easy for Johnson because Mason was 2.5 miles farther and didn’t have the reputation in academics that ELHS had and Okemos is perceived as not being friendly to out-of-district students. Johnson said she considers herself spoiled because she got to stay at ELHS and receive a great education that she knows has prepared her for college. She adds, “East Lansing has become a part of me and my family.”
On the other side of the story is the Lansing school district which understands it has a problem but has no current solution. Every year the city is losing hundreds of students and millions of dollars because they cannot compete with neighboring, East Lansing when it comes to education. From what students have said, in order for Lansing to compete with East Lansing they might what to integrate specialty classes like foreign languages and AP classes and improve their athletics.