Tom Watkins is the new state superintendent of schools. Watkins, former state mental health director, was chosen in February by the state Board of Education to become the new superintendent, following the five-year tenure of retiring Superintendent Arthur Ellis. Watkins is known for helping to establish Michigan's first charter school in the early 1990s.
More than 26,000 students took advantage of Michigan's public schools-of-choice program in 2000 to enroll in schools outside their district boundaries, according to data compiled by the Michigan Department of Education. Despite many districts' restrictions or refusal to participate in the program, this number is three times what it was at the program's inception four years ago.
More charter schools could be authorized statewide if the Upper Peninsula's Bay Mills Community College takes advantage of its status as a tribal school. Under Michigan law, community colleges can open charter schools only in their enrollment areas. Because Bay Mills serves Native Americans throughout Michigan, its "area" is the entire state. Recently, the college chartered two schools in the Lower Peninsula.