State Spending on “Shared Time” Students Grows 51%

Public schools that allow private school students to enroll in elective classes receive state money for what is called "shared time."

It’s becoming more common and a new report says over the past three years, the state is spending 51 percent more on those "shared time" students.

Shared time instruction is growing more and more in our state — and both private and public schools call it a win-win.

“Our parents are taxpayers. They pay the same taxes everyone else does,” Traverse City Christian School Superintendent Bart Denboer said. “So we have basically paid for these services.”

That’s the idea behind shared time instruction — private school students — taught elective classes by public school teachers.

“Our tuition isn’t raised by their being here. If they weren’t here and we wanted to teach Spanish, art, music, P.E., et cetera, we would need to pay our own teachers in order to do that.”

Public school districts get to count the private students they educate toward per-pupil funding from the state.

And private students get access to subjects they might not have otherwise.

“They honor our mission and belief system without also putting their own mission at risk.”

Saint Ann’s Catholic School in Cadillac has 100 percent of its students enrolled in shared time instruction.

Traverse City Christian School has 90 percent.

“Three of our four teachers teach there as well as here, so they are able to have full time teachers in that role as well as any money they don’t have to use to pay for those teachers,” said St. Ann’s Catholic School Principal Bob Kellogg.

According to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the number of shared time students last year… 11,300.

Three years ago, there were just under 8,000.

It’s a practice they expect will continue to grow.

“It’s really given them a chance to have the same opportunities they’d enjoy in the public schools. We’re having classes that we wouldn’t be able to afford to have otherwise.”

According to the Citizens Research Council, the state spent 86 million dollars over the last academic year to educate private students in grades Kindergarten through 12.