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Norbert Bufka

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Shared time instruction in Michigan

Students in nonpublic schools and those who are homeschooled are eligible to take non-core classes at the local public school. Originally these were subjects like art, music, foreign languages, and gym but  the legislature has encouraged these programs as a way to offer choice and opportunities to more children. This shared time instruction, as it is called, has been expanded from nonpublic students in the local district to students in other districts, even across county line and the instruction is done right in the private school classroom by public school teachers, according to a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. . In 2017-2018 the cost is more than $133 million, about three times what it was just seven years ago, according to the Detroit Fre Press.. About 100,000students currently participate in shared time.

Local public school Districts, including Charter Schools, have taken advantage of this program by promoting instructional classes in private schools. They hired teachers who are not part of the regular school system, pay them less, and the teachers are not covered under the local district’s collective bargaining agreement. As a result the district has less cost per student and it becomes a money making program for the district.

Berkley School District, for example, has about 4,300 students and an operating budget of about $55 million. It has public school teachers working in about 40 private schools to 1,500 equivalent full time students. Berkley receives about $12 million for this program.  It needs only about 60% to meet all the expenses associated with shared time instruction, so it has a windfall of more than $4 million to spend on other programs.  Madison Academy charter school in Flint has more students in shared instruction than in its regular program, thus doubling its income, reported the Detroit Free Press. .

In 2018 Gov. Rick Snyder, who had been supportive, said “This program diverts resources from core instruction that improves student outcomes” and is calling for a cap on shared time of 5% of their regular student enrollment. Proponents say it is a good program providing benefits to student who would otherwise not get these benefits.

Shared time instruction would appear to be in keeping with the state’s goal of education for all, but it is part of the nationwide movement to destroy universal public education and support nonpublic schools. The teachers in share time are not part of the staff of the public school which hired them nor part of the staff of the nonpublic school. School districts are using them oney to fatten their budget rather than provide quality education in shared time instruction. We therefore support Gov. Snyder’s efforts to reign in this program.



“State Support of Nonpublic School Students”, Citizens Research Council of Michigan,  January 22, 2014.

Erin Einhorn, “Snyder takes aim at program steering public money to private schools”, Detroit Free Press, April 9, 2018.


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