A tax credit for money donated to public or private schools would be available for individuals or businesses if a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R.-Mich., becomes law. Under the plan, the credit would equal 75 percent of the total tax bill up to a maximum credit of $500 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations. Donations could be used to provide scholarships and greater educational choices to families.

Budgeted increases for Michigan K-12 schools were lowered by 5 percent recently as Gov. John Engler blamed state legislators for failing to pass the state's $11.7-billion budget for K-12 education before leaving for summer vacation. The unexpected funding adjustment, totaling $175 million, has districts scrambling to revise downward their budget projections for the school year.

Prompted by recent high-profile school shootings, the nation's largest school employee labor union announced plans to offer a special $150,000 life insurance benefit for teachers and other union members who are slain at work. The National Education Association approved a new "unlawful homicide" benefit to add to the traditional member life insurance plan, officials said recently. Though tragic shootings are highly publicized, statistics show the likelihood of school employees being murdered on the job remains low.

Finding data on every Michigan school district-including spending levels, graduation rates, and test scores-is now easier than ever, thanks to the debut of a new web site in May. The web site provides visitors with access to a comprehensive school evaluation system, the first of its kind in the country, developed by the Wall Street bond-rating firm Standard and Poor's. The system lists up to 1,500 items of data for each school district and summarizes each district's strengths and weaknesses. The site, www.ses.standardandpoors.com, will cost the state of Michigan an estimated $10 million to maintain over the next five years.