A new study finds that 71 percent of Detroit parents have enrolled at least one of their children in schools other than their assigned public schools during the past five years.

The study, Understanding School Shoppers in Detroit, conducted by University of Arkansas School Choice Demonstration Project scholars and sponsored by Michigan Future Inc., considered a variety of school-choice options, including public charter schools, magnet schools, public schools outside Detroit, private schools and home schools. Michigan has no private school-choice programs.

Michigan Future Inc. explained that “the report represents one of the most comprehensive and aggressive attempts nationally to answer important questions about how parents, especially low-wealth families, think about and pursue school options within a major urban setting.”

Currently, 55 percent of Detroit kindergarten-12th grade students attend assigned public schools, but as co-author Patrick J. Wolf, University of Arkansas Twenty First Century Chair in School Choice, explained, “Our most surprising finding was that such a high percentage of Detroit families have experience choosing from among alternatives to assigned public schools…The older their children were, the greater was the likelihood that their parents had shopped for schools.”

Other key findings of the study:

  • 22.5 percent of school-aged Detroit children are enrolled in charter schools.
  • 15 percent attend public schools outside of Detroit.
  • 5 percent are enrolled in public magnet schools.
  • 2.5 percent attend private schools or are home-schooled.
  • Parents generally listed academic quality as the most important feature of a school. School safety and discipline, convenience, and extracurricular activities were also factors.
  • Almost 30 percent of parents would transport children “up to 8 miles” for a good school.

“Parents clearly are looking for schools that combine academic rigor with safety and convenience,” explained co-author Thomas Stewart. “Veteran school shoppers view academic performance as especially important.”