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Michigan Catholic Conference
(800) 395-5565
(517) 372-3940
510 S. Capitol Ave.
Lansing, MI 48933

News Release: New Poll Indicates Overwhelming Statewide Support for School Choice

All Demographic, Ideological & Party Affiliations Want Ability to Choose


(Lansing)—As the Michigan Legislature continues its review of a package of bills that reforms education policy in the state, Michigan voters have responded to a recent statewide survey overwhelmingly in favor of having the ability to choose where their child receives an education.

“Regardless of the respondent’s location, race, gender, union membership or party affiliation, the results of this survey clearly indicate that Michigan families have grown lethargic of the status quo and want the ability to choose where and how their children receive the best education possible,” said Paul A. Long, Michigan Catholic Conference President and C.E.O.

Senate Bills 618-624 and 709-710 would increase the number of charter schools in the state; streamline dual enrollment and shared time policies that benefit both public and non-public schools; expand the schools of choice policy; increase the number of cyber schools in the state; and allow for the conversion of failing schools.

Senate Bill 624, which would expand existing public school options for parents, has been met with vocal opposition from interests in certain communities and politicians. Yet, an overwhelming majority of Michigan residents support this bill.

When asked the question “Do you think that parents of children in failing schools should or should not be allowed to send their children to better performing schools in other districts” 82 percent of those surveyed responded in favor, with 68 percent strongly supporting the option.

The poll’s cross-tabulations provide the following results to the above question:

  Yes No
Overall 82% 15%
Republicans 83% 12%
Ticket Splitters 79% 17%
Democrats 83% 14%
Children at home 86% 13%
No Children at home 81% 15%
Union membership 81% 15%
Non union membership 82% 14%
Caucasian 83% 13%
African American 95% 5%
Other Non-Caucasian 75% 24

Media Markets

  Yes No
Sag/Flint/BC 83% 13%
GR/KZoo/West 88% 8%
Cad/TC/SSM 88% 9%
Mid/Lansing 85% 10%
Metro Detroit 77% 20%
UP 100% 0

Metro Detroit

  Yes No
Detroit 85% 12%
Outer Wayne County 68% 31%
Oakland County 74% 23%
Macomb County 85% 11

“It is the hope of the Michigan Catholic Conference that these polling numbers will help members of the Michigan Legislature look past what is a very small yet vocal minority of special interests, and listen to everyday parents and families who want better educational options for their children,” said Long.

The State Senate has passed out to the House of Representatives all of the bills in the package except for that which expands the state’s schools of choice policy, which may be addressed this week in the Senate Education Committee, and the bill that allows for the conversion of a public school into a charter school, which awaits consideration from the full Senate. The House Education Committee has already conducted one hearing on the legislation that would allow for a greater number of charter schools in Michigan.

Policies of Interest to Non-Public School Community

Of particular interest to the non-public school community is the shared time (Senate Bill 621) and dual enrollment (Senate Bills 622-623 & 709-710) bills. Shared time is a 32-year policy in Michigan that allows public school teachers to provide instruction of non-essential classes to non-public school students. The policy is a win-win for both public and non-public schools as the participating public school receives a pro-rated per pupil foundation allowance from the state, and the non-public school students are given wider access to non-essential classes not offered at the non-public school. Senate Bill 621 broadens existing geographical boundaries to the Intermediate School District (ISD) or contiguous ISD if the local public school district or contiguous district is unable to provide shared time services.

On at least four occasions the United States Supreme Court and the Michigan Supreme Court have upheld the constitutionality of shared time policies. At the state level those cases include Clonlara v. State Board of Education; Snyder v. Charlotte Public Schools; and School District of Traverse City v. Attorney General. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy in Agostini v. Felton in 1997.

The process of allowing students to dual enroll in secondary and post-secondary institutions was instituted with the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Act (Public Act 160 of 1996) and the Career and Technical Preparation Act (Public Act 258 of 2000). Senate Bills 622-623 and 709-710 amend the state’s dual enrollment policy, and eliminates the unnecessary burden/requirement for non-public school students to first enroll in a public high school course prior to enrolling in that student’s desired class at a post-secondary institution. According to the legislation, payment for that student’s class would go directly from the Department of Treasury to the post-secondary institution. The legislation also allows for all students, public and non-public, to dual enroll in earlier grades.

The dual enrollment policy was also asked of those who participated in the survey, with a healthy majority of respondents supporting the policy change. A statement about the policy was first read before the question was asked:

Currently in Michigan, non-public high school students who want to take a college-level course at a university or college must first enroll in a public high school and pass a qualifying course. Would you support or oppose a proposal to remove this requirement and allow non-public high school students to directly enroll in college-level courses if they wish?

The poll’s cross-tabulations indicate the following results to the above question:

  Yes No
Overall 63% 33%
Republicans 72% 23%
Ticket Splitters 61% 35%
Democrats 58% 37%
Children at home 62% 31%
No children at home 63% 33%
Union membership 59% 37%
Non union membership 65% 30%
Caucasian 64% 32%
African American 61% 34%
Other Non-Caucasian 55% 40

Media Markets

  Yes No
Sag/Flint/BC 61% 36%
GR/KZoo/West 57% 38%
Cad/TC/SSM 74% 21%
Mid/Lansing 65% 31%
Metro Detroit 63% 31%
UP 63% 38

Metro Detroit

  Yes No
Detroit 71% 24%
Outer Wayne County 59% 38%
Oakland County 62% 31%
Macomb County 64% 32%

“Voters are very much in support of eliminating the discriminatory barrier for non-public school students, no more so than in the City of Detroit, where greater than seven out of ten support the policy change,” said Long.

The MRG survey commissioned by the Michigan Catholic Conference survey sampled 600 likely voters. The statistical margin of error is +/- 4 percent. The survey was conducted October 6–9, 2011.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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Michigan Catholic Conference
(800) 395-5565
(517) 372-3940
510 South Capitol Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48933
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