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Norbert Bufka

Author  ยท  Historian

pre-K through 12th grade education in Michigan

Public schools have been a priority in Michigan from the earliest days. They hav aspired to high standards. As the state grew and our country advanced control of schools shifted from over 7,000 small local districts to 540 K-12 districts today. There are 54 intermediate school districts, which provide help for special needs. Funding has shifted from mostly local property taxes to state funding.

Student enrollment in public schools peaked in1971-72 at 2,212,505 and has declined to 1,507,743 in 2015. Michigan Has always required teacher certification, school attendance, curriculum guidelines, days and hours of instruction. Today it requires compulsory attendance to age 18, 180 days of schooling, 1098 hours of instruction, and   a model core curriculum.

There are 294 Charter Schools in Michigan. They must comply with all the standards of traditional public schools and suudents are assessed by the state. They receive the same foundational allowance per pupil as the local public school.

Nonpublic schools must comply with the state regulations regarding attendance, curriculum, building and health codes, and vaccinations, but not days of attendance or curriculum. [a]  In 2014 it is estimated that nonpublic school enrollment was 165,487 in over 600 schools. [b]  They are forbidden by the Michigan Constitution to receive state tax dollars.

Michigan law gives parents and legal guardians the right to homeschool their children. There are subject requirements, but the curriculum and selection of texts are the right of the parent. No records are required to be kept or filed with the state.[c]  It is believed that there are about 50,000 students in Michigan being homeschooled. [d] They do not receive state tax dollars.

Evaluation and recommendations

For the past two decades we have witnessed declining performance results on standardized tests in reading, math, and science. These are not across the board but often enough to indicate there is much to be concerned about. Amazon decided in January 2018 not to locate their second headquarters in Detroit because of our poor schools. [e] Business leaders for Michigan   (BLM) reported that “The Amazon decision should rally us to work harder, much harder, to produce the talent we need to create good jobs.” BLM rank Michigan “30th in overall educational attainment.” [f][g]

In many cases Charter Schools are peforming worse than their local school from which they get their students.  There is virtually no standards for homeschooling and no effective way to evaluate those pupils. Charter Schools and homeschooling are unnecessary fragmentation of the educational system. Both must be held to higher standards.

We also must recognize that some pupils for various reasons have greater needs than average and

The Michigan Department of Education and the Legislature must take seriously the reports of School Finance Research Collaborative.

A high quality education is important for the citizens of Michigan so they can make responsible decisions at home, get a good job in Michigan, and vote responsibly



[a] “Nonpublic and Home School Information 2016-2017”, Michigan Department of Education.

[b] Julie Mack, “Private schools enroll 9% of Michigan students and other facts on nonpublic school”, MLive, January 26, 2016.

[c] Ibid.

[d] Ibid.

[e] Phil Power, “Amazon to Michigan: Fix your Schools!”, Bridge Magazine, January 23, 2018.

[g] Ibid.

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