MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 35
Sept. 2, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/

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Contents of this issue:
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* To save money, public schools finding ways to keep enrollment
  down
* NAACP files suit to stop Florida achievement test
* Michigan lawmakers to push school start past Labor Day
* Schools try marketing to gain students
* New York schools pay millions to get parents involved
* Court dismisses school prayer lawsuit
* Houston district docks officials' pay

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TO SAVE MONEY, PUBLIC SCHOOLS FINDING WAYS TO KEEP ENROLLMENT
DOWN
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public schools across the nation are shoring
up soaring budgets by finding ways to exclude some students from
enrollment, according to J.H. Snider, a former school board
member and senior research fellow at the New America Foundation
in Washington, D.C.

Snider says one way U.S. politicians at the state, local and
school district levels are doing this is by discouraging
development within district boundaries that includes family
dwellings.

A second way is to facilitate high dropout rates among poor, at-
risk students. High dropout rates keep down student enrollments,
and cut the cost of education. "If dropout rates suddenly
decreased, many school districts would have a financial and
facilities crisis," says Snider.

"Public schools are being turned into a welfare service for the
disadvantaged," Snider says. "A vicious cycle is being
established whereby students at the margins are being driven out,
which meets short-term budget needs and keeps most of those left
in the system happy. But those who are safe now become at risk
for the next round of enrollment cuts."

Michigan is one state in which funding follows the child, which,
in combination with the state's schools-of-choice law (which
allows students to move to adjoining districts) may mitigate
against the practice Snider describes.
________
SOURCES:
Washington Post, "From Public School to Welfare Service,"
Sept. 2, 2003
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A12214-2003Sep1

Detroit News, "Schools of Choice pay price," Aug. 31, 2003
http://www.detnews.com/2003/schools/0308/31/a01-258549.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money
or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/3683


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NAACP FILES SUIT TO STOP FLORIDA ACHIEVEMENT TEST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) filed a formal complaint against the
Florida Department of Education in an attempt to stop the use of
standardized testing as a requirement for high school graduation.

The complaint notes an achievement gap between white and minority
students in Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) results
and accuses the department of discrimination against minority
students in the test.

This year, 73 percent of white fourth-graders scored proficiently
in reading, while 41 percent of black students and 51 percent of
hispanics did the same. But Education Commissioner Jim Horne said
the gap is closing: last year, 65 percent of white fourth-graders
scored proficiently, compared to 23 percent of blacks and 38
percent of hispanics.

Critics of racial comparisons on achievement tests say those who
charge racism erroneously assume a necessary relationship between
score disparities and racism, when no such relationship exists.
_______
SOURCES:
Associated Press, "NAACP Moves to Stop Fla. Assessment Tests,"
Aug. 28, 2003
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A61052-2003Aug28.html

Michigan Education Report, "Which educational achievement test is
best for Michigan?" Fall 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4622


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MICHIGAN LAWMAKERS TO PUSH SCHOOL START PAST LABOR DAY
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LANSING, Mich. – A group of Michigan lawmakers wants to introduce
legislation to push the start of school past Labor Day beginning
next fall, in response to complaints from parents and the tourism
industry.

Justification for the change, which will be introduced by Rep.
John Garfield, R-Rochester Hills, is that starting school after
Labor Day would bring in more taxes over the holiday and give
students more time in the summer before restarting school.
"There's got to be a balance between bringing in the tourism
money and education," Garfield told the Detroit Free Press.

The Michigan Education Association says it opposes such
legislation. "It's frustrating to the education community when
the business community advocates for things that don't have
anything to do with teaching and learning," said union
spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley.

A Michigan poll conducted by EPIC/MRA this month shows that 63
percent of respondents would like school to start after Labor
Day.
______
SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "Bill to try to delay school year,"
Aug. 29, 2003
http://www.freep.com/news/education/labor29_20030829.htm


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MICHIGAN SCHOOLS TRY MARKETING TO GAIN STUDENTS
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DETROIT, Mich. – By allowing parents to send their children to
schools in adjoining districts, Michigan's schools of choice law
is forcing school districts to compete for students. And in the
battle to win, districts are increasingly turning to marketing.

Using everything from radio and television advertisments to
billboards, many districts even contract with outside marketing
firms to get expert help with recruiting students. In the Detroit
area, Taylor Schools spent over $60,000 on marketing last year,
while West Bloomfield spent $15,000.

Critics say schools shouldn't be forced to market to potential
students. "For districts that are struggling, that's incredibly
disturbing," Margaret Trimer-Hartley, spokeswoman for the
Michigan Education Association, told the Detroit News. "You
cannot treat education as a business."

On the other hand, some districts draw students without overt
marketing. "Word of mouth is the best advertising," said Madison
Public Schools Superintendent Steve Johnson. His district spent
nothing on marketing last year and brought in 458 students.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Schools pay thousands to lure kids," Aug. 31, 2003
http://www.detnews.com/2003/schools/0309/01/a12-258576.htm

Michigan Privatization Report, "Marketing Public Schools:
Competition for Students Heats Up," August 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2134

Michigan Education Report, "Public Schools Step Up Marketing,"
Winter 1999
http://www.educationreport.org/1587

Michigan Education Report, "Can Market Incentives Improve
Schools?" Winter 1999
http://www.educationreport.org/1593


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NEW YORK SCHOOLS PAY MILLIONS TO GET PARENTS INVOLVED
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NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York City Department of Education is
hiring 1,200 full-time parent coordinators in an attempt to get
more parents involved in their children's education, at a cost of
$43 million.

The coordinators, who will be paid $30,000 to $39,000 per year,
must maintain contact with parents of students in their schools
and create "a welcoming environment for parents," according to
the job description. The full-time job will run 12 months per
year.

Even district officials say they are taking a gamble on whether
the program will work. "The question of how much increased
parental involvement there will be is a variable that is very
hard for me," said Chancellor Joel Klein at a news conference.
"What I can do is create the opportunities. And that's what I
think we have done."
_______
SOURCES:
New York Times, "In Gamble, New York Schools Pay to Get Parents
Involved," Aug. 30, 2003
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/30/nyregion/30PARE.html

Michigan Education Report, "Moving beyond bake sales,"
Early Fall 2001
http://www.educationreport.org/3753

Michigan Education Report, "Award-Winning Teacher Says Parental
Involvement Is Key," Fall 1998
http://www.educationreport.org/766

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Ultimate in Parental
Involvement," July 1998
http://www.mackinac.org/532


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COURT DISMISSES SCHOOL PRAYER LAWSUIT
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LINCOLN, Neb. – The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an
earlier U.S. District Court ruling dismissing a lawsuit against a
Nebraska school district and a district board member for leading
students in prayer at a graduation ceremony.

Norfolk Public Schools board member Jim Scheer was accused by the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of violating separation of
church and state by leading a recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
The ACLU contacted the school prior to graduation and warned the
district that a planned prayer would violate the boundaries
between church and state.

The courts dismissed the case because the board member was acting
as a civilian and not as a representative of the district,
because his son was a part of the graduating class. The district
also had no prior knowledge of the content of Scheer's speech,
wrote Judge Andrew Bogue in his opinion.
_______
SOURCES:
Los Angeles Times, "Lawsuit Over School Prayer Is Tossed Out,"
Aug. 30, 2003
http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-reldigests30.6aug30,1,109425.story?coll=la-news-learning

U.S. Department of Education, "Guidance on Constitutionally
Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,"
February 2003
http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/other/2003-1/022803b.html


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HOUSTON DISTRICT DOCKS OFFICIALS' PAY
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HOUSTON, Texas – An investigation into the Houston school
district's graduation rates found that several district officials
tampered with numbers to get a more positive rating.

Two district employees, a former principal and a computer
technician, will have their pay docked by the district for two
weeks. Houston Independent School District Superintendent Kaye
Stripling issued a written statement saying the district and the
public "will not tolerate the reporting of inaccurate data."


The Texas Education Agency, which oversees public schools, found
that 3,000 dropouts were unaccounted for in Houston schools
during the 2000-2001 school year. Manhattan Institute Senior
Fellow Jay P. Greene told the Associated Press that school
district officials tampering with school statistics is a
nationwide problem and not an isolated incident.
______
SOURCE:
Washington Post, "Houston Docks Pay Of School Officials,"
Aug. 31, 2003
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A5374-2003Aug30


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MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper
with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center
for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private,
nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at
[mailto:med@educationreport.org]

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