During the discussion with the various education interests, there appears to be a difference of opinion as to what Michigan residents are eligible to attend the “free public elementary and secondary schools” authorized by the Article VIII, §2 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963:
The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.
The issue is significant in light of Governor Snyder’s approach to improving public education in that it contemplates an “unbundling” of public education.
In summary, there seem to be two inconsistent views:
The laws enacted by the Legislature to establish the “system” are divided on this subject. But, as outlined below, it appears that Michigan’s system or free public elementary schools permit the following:
The School Aid Act of 1979 originally was based on the concept of “membership” of a pupil in the pupil’s district of residence. This approach reflects the school district control model whereby the district would both control and be responsible for the pupil’s entire public education experience. Any deviation from this model required either legislative approval or the specific approval of the district authorities. Because Michigan has a mandatory enrollment policy, the law had to assure that every Michigan resident pupil had a district in which he or she could enroll. The system was never universal however, because some areas of the state did not have the full K-12 elementary and secondary system. Pupils in K-8 districts were allowed, and required, to attend a secondary school in another district.
Other exceptions were made to the assigned school system where the district could not or would not serve the pupil, including:
In addition, the right of families to provide their own education at their own cost was recognized as an exception, so long as the private or church school met certain state standards.
After a contentious debate, school officials who sought to prohibit homeschoolers were defeated and Michigan families have a right to homeschool their children.
In the 1990s, the Michigan Legislature adopted policies that permitted pupils and their parents to select new public schools without the approval of district of residence, including:
In these new situations, the pupil merely switches schools; he or she continues to receive the entire education in a single school.
Examples where pupils enroll in multiple schools include:
At this time, the School Aid Act includes several sections whereby state aid funding is allocated on a proportional basis for pupils attending more than one public school.