Over the past three decades, policymakers have created systems of school choice as one strategy to expand access to high-quality schools and mitigate education inequality. Publicly funded school choice programs now include charter schools, the option to move within and between traditionally organized district schools, and, in some states, school vouchers for private tuition. One rationale for school choice is the opportunity for parents to select the alternatives to an assigned public school that better fit the needs of their child. However, in low-income and historically segregated communities, the burden of transporting children to schools outside of their immediate residential location may determine the extent to which parents have a meaningful choice of schools farther away. The role that transportation plays in limiting or enhancing the success of a school choice system is as yet under examined by policymakers and policy analysts.
In this report, we describe access to educational opportunities for students living in Detroit, a city that has a rich system of public school choice available to its families through charter schools and interdistrict and intradistrict choice.