Coaches Say ’school Of Choice’ Program Hurts Communities

June 11, 2012 / Basketball
The Detroit News|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Michigan’s schools of choice program, which was established in 1996, has received mixed reviews from high school coaches and administrators.

Some coaches say it has ruined high school sports by eliminating the community aspect of their teams. But many administrators say the program offers a variety of academic opportunities to students who would otherwise do without.

The intent of the program is to allow parents to transfer their children to a school that offers better educational opportunities.

For example, the Pontiac school district did not make Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act in reading or mathematics in 2010-11. The district is on an academic watch status for two years.

It’s no surprise that Pontiac High School has seen a significant drop in enrollment. In 2009-10, the first school year after Northern and Central merged, Pontiac had 2,008 students. This year there were 1,721. Next year’s enrollment is expected to be 1,200-1,300.

In 2010-11, 82 percent of Michigan public schools participated in the schools of choice program. Athletically, however, critics argue that the program offers too many advantages to some districts. Allen Park football coach Tom Hoover said it has “opened up a can of worms.”

“It’s not a level playing field,” Hoover said. “It’s like poker. I have to stay with a pat hand and you get to draw three.”

Hoover’s point is while his high school doesn’t accept schools of choice students, others in the Downriver League do. Hoover doesn’t accuse coaches of using undue influence to encourage top athletes to transfer. He merely points out the option is there.

A few school districts in Metro Detroit remain completely closed; Grosse Pointe, Farmington and Dearborn are among them.

Allen Park and Romulus are like most districts. They have a limited schools of choice program, which varies from year to year. For the 2012-13 school year, Allen Park is accepting applications for kindergarten through sixth grade but is closed for grades seven and 9-12. Hoover said there were five openings for eighth grade. Romulus is accepting applications for K-8 and 12th grade.

Leave a Reply