Subscribe For My Weekly Two Cents
If you want to get every new article straight to your inbox, sign up for my Weekly Wisdom emails. 

Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

School Districts & Alternatives

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

I thought this week we’d talk about school districts. School districts affect home values and cost, as many families take a home’s assigned district into consideration. We’ll also explore some of the alternative schooling options available in Michigan.

Disclaimer: In my capacity as a real estate agent, I cannot comment as to whether a school district is “good”. This scenario is the same as commenting on whether a community is “safe”. These are subjective categories and will vary by the person perceiving them. Two people who live in the same district with children in the same classroom will have varied opinions on the quality of the education. I will, however, use third-party published rankings to aid in my pontificating today.

Property Values

I don’t think it is a secret that the school districts with reputations for strong academics and external accolades are more desirable to many parents who are planning to make use of the public school system. In fact, I have helped families move specifically to allow them to enroll their children in what they determine to be a more desirable school district for their children.

As more families seek to live in areas with the “best” schools, it creates pressure on the housing market and pushes up the prices amidst the increased demand. According to, the top three school districts in Michigan are Novi, Troy and Northville. All three of these areas are extremely competitive if you wish to purchase a home there.

Property Taxes

Much of your local public school’s funding comes from property tax millages. When you want to estimate a home’s potential property taxes, the Michigan tax estimator needs four fields: county, municipality, school district and the state equalized value (SEV) of the property.

Here you can see that the tax millage rate varies according to school district.

Here’s an example. Two homes in Canton Township each valued around $400,000 ($200,000 SEV). One is located in Plymouth-Canton school district and one is in Wayne-Westland schools. The home in the Wayne-Westland school district pays approximately $485/year more in taxes. The school district is the only variable.

School Alternatives

I’ll discuss some alternatives to your assigned local school district below. Here are some factors to keep in mind for each of these options:

  • How will I get my child to/from school if there is no bus service?
  • Does the school require tuition?
  • Is the school’s educational philosophy a fit for my child?
  • What is the application process and timeline?

School of Choice

If you’re not satisfied with the school your child is assigned, you can investigate whether there are school of choice options available to you.

Schools of Choice programs provide students with additional enrollment opportunities, which range from allowing students to determine which school within the resident district they will enroll, to allowing non-resident students to enroll in a district other than their own.

Each district makes their own decisions around school of choice rules. These decisions include whether to allow it, what the program looks like, what schools participate and how many students it will accept into the program. The district may choose to allow students to request to enroll in alternative schools within the district or they may allow students from other districts to attend their schools or some combination of both.

TNT played this movie on repeat for 5 years.

If interested, pay very close attention to the timelines set forth by the applicable districts. The schools work under tight deadlines as they determine their enrollment for the fall. They may only open a short window to accept school of choice applicants.

Charter Schools

Public School Academies, or charter schools, have proliferated over the years in Michigan. I don’t remember them being “a thing” at all when I was school-aged, although according to the below they were codified in 1976.

Pursuant to the Revised School Code (MCL), also known as Public Act 451 of 1976, a PSA is a state-supported public school under the state constitution, operating under a charter contract issued by a public authorizing body [MCL 380.501(1)MCL 380.552]. PSAs are also commonly referred to as charter schools.

Basically, it’s a state-funded public school serving any combination of kindergarten through high school. They can’t charge tuition or discriminate based on race, religion, gender, disability or test scores. Enrollment is determined based on a lottery system where there are more applicants than spots.

Charter schools often form around a specific educational philosophy. For example, Ivywood is a well-known charter school near me who touts a “classical education” focusing on educating the whole child without teaching specifically to standardized tests. Another charter school describes providing an education with a “strong moral focus” and “a rigorous college-prep education.”

If your child needs a different style of learning, a charter school may be a good option to explore.

Private Schools

The O.G. of alternative schools, the private school still exists. As an alumna of private school myself (GO BLAZERS!), it can be an option if the tuition is affordable for your family. In olden days referred to as “parochial schools”, it was common for these schools to be religiously affiliated with a local parish within a religion (I hope you’re thinking of Mary Katherine Gallagher in Superstar – I know I am).

I miss the mental freedom of the uniform.

These days, there are still many religiously affiliated private schools, but there are also non-denominational private schools as well. When researching these schools, you’ll want to pay attention to the enrollment requirements, tuition amounts and timelines for admission.

I hope you found today’s article helpful in understanding some of the dynamics around school districts as they relate to home ownership. As always, I’m here to help with all your homeowner questions, concerns and dreams!

Photo by Yan Krukau

Leave a Reply

More Wisdom from Dabs