Whether Michigan is to have more charter schools will depend in part upon the recommendation of a new commission created this fall by legislators to assess the performance of the 186 existing charter schools that serve 66,000 Michigan students. The commission, headed by Michigan State University President Peter McPherson, includes state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins and six other appointees-four appointed by the House and Senate leadership and two by Gov. Engler.
The constitutionality of vouchers will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case challenging the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program. The court's ruling, expected next summer, will determine whether or not tax dollars can be used for children's education at private and religious schools. The case stems from an Ohio voucher plan instituted in 1995, which offers publicly funded scholarships to children from low-income families in Cleveland. Approximately 4,000 students participate in the program. The case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, will be heard in January.
A new web site, MichiganVotes.org, is helping citizens keep track of education-related and other legislation by offering plain-English, nonpartisan descriptions of all bills and the complete voting records of all Michigan legislators. The site, maintained by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, allows web users to access the full text and analyses of recent bills and amendments in the Michigan Legislature and can be customized to send email updates on legislative activities by issue or legislator. "Citizens-be they students, advocates, reporters, researchers, or just curious-should check it out," said Lynn Jondahl, a former Democratic state representative.