Contents of this issue:
  • California districts withhold special education funds from charters

  • Michigan receives federal grant to fund charter start-ups

  • School property tax rises to old rate

  • Superintendents agree to testify before legislature after subpoena threat

  • Georgia dismisses teachers with fake degrees

  • Tutoring companies to challenge Philadelphia spending rules

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A study released this month uncovered several California districts that are withholding up to 37 percent of special education funding earmarked for charter schools.

Study author Lisa Snell of the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation said that charter schools in California are being shorted special education funding by districts in that state. Snell said some are withholding over a third of the normal per-pupil grant. "There's really no excuse for such huge percentages of money being pilfered from charter schools," said Snell.

The problem stems from the funding path that education dollars follow in the state of California, says Gary Larson, spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association. Dollars don't follow the child; instead, "They still follow the bureaucracy, and that works against the needs of the students who need early intervention."

In Michigan, education dollars follow students rather than being filtered through the bureaucracy.

L.A. Daily News, "Charter funds 'pilfered,'" July 7, 2004,1413,200~20954~2258796,00.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000

Michigan Education Report, "No local autonomy for special education in Michigan," Spring 2002

LANSING, Mich. — The state of Michigan will receive from the federal Department of Education a $21 million grant over three years to help new and existing charter schools with start-up costs.

The grant, which is only given to 10 states, will be distributed through a competitive process to new and existing charter schools, though new charters will receive the bulk of the money. The schools generally cost a minimum of $300,000 to start, said Nawal Hamadeh, superintendent and CEO of two Detroit-area charters. The grant money is "crucial," she told the Detroit News.

According to Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the state received a similar federal grant during the last three years. Quisenberry said the grant has been put to good use creating schools, where the majority have waiting lists for entry. Charter schools "are an important part of the scene," said Quisenberry.

Detroit News, "$21 million will go for new charters," July 7, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Charters not exempted from high construction costs," Early Fall 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000

LANSING, Mich. — A property tax discount approved by former Gov. John Engler and the state Legislature will end this summer, raising the state education tax to six mills from five.

The tax was reduced in a compromise between Engler and the Legislature when the state decided to roll annual property tax payments into one bill instead of two; the six-mill tax was lowered one point in 2003 to help soften the blow of a single tax bill. This year, the tax will revert to its original level.

Government officials say they expect inquiries about the increased tax level from property owners. "I am sure we'll have some questions," said Livonia treasurer Linda Grimsby. Others say last year's change caused more of a stir than what will be expected after the increase. "I think there was more of a concern with the summer payment jumping from 3 percent to 5 percent and the winter payment going from 3 to zero," said Northville finance director Nickie Bateson.

State property taxes for education approached the 50 mill level in many communities before the 1994 passage of Proposal A, which shifted most state education funding from property taxes to an increased sales tax, among other changes.

Detroit News, "School tax reverts to old rate," July 5, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Proposal A,' 10 Years Later," February 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Finance Reform Lessons from Michigan," October 2001

LANSING, Mich. — Four superintendents of intermediate school districts (ISDs) agreed last week to testify in front of the state House after legislators threatened to subpoena the administrators.

Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, who has led several bills increasing accountability and oversight of ISDs, said the superintendents of ISDs for Kent, Macomb, Genesee and Iosco counties all contacted her office after she announced plans to subpoena the administrators through the legislature. The subpoenas will not be necessary "as long as they come in, as long as they testify," said Johnson.

The recent legislative push for increased oversight of ISDs began after administrators at the Oakland Intermediate district were accused of financial mismanagement and frauds. Three bills seeking better oversight of the districts were approved this month by the House and Senate and await approval by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Detroit Free Press, "School superintendents to testify after a subpoena threat," July 8, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003

Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?" Winter 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Less Government, Not More, Is Key to Academic Achievement and Accountability," Oct. 3, 2001, House Bills 5376, 4947, 4338

ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia state certification officials revoked the teaching licenses of eleven teachers after it was revealed they held fake advanced degrees purchased abroad.

The Professional Standards Commission voted 11-1 to revoke the teachers' licenses, citing ethics and professional violations after the teachers accepted pay raises based upon their educational experience. The teachers had obtained the degrees from Saint Regis University, a Liberian-based institution believed to sell bogus advanced degrees to Americans.

The degrees were discovered after an anonymous tip prompted a thorough review in March of all 130,000 teachers in the state. The state originally accepted the degrees because it relied on several credentialing agencies to validate foreign degrees, a system now reduced to four agencies.

Michael Kramer, an attorney for some of the teachers maintained that the degrees were not fake and required coursework commensurate with that of advanced degree programs offered in the United States. ""The PSC had no safeguards or rules in place to protect these teachers, who were awarded credit for substantial course work and work experience in their graduate programs," said Kramer.

Associated Press, "11 Ga. teachers said hold bogus degrees," July 9, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Must Teachers Be Certified to Be Qualified?" February 1999

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Two private tutoring companies will argue before the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the Philadelphia School District pushes students into its own program instead of contracting out tutoring services according to equal opportunity law.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires that school districts provide poorly-performing students with tutoring services paid for by federal Title I funds. Action Reading & Math Inc. and A+ Tutoring Service Inc. are appealing the Pennsylvania Education Department's approval of tutoring services provided by Philadelphia's intermediate school district. The NCLB Act prohibits low-performing districts like Philadelphia from providing the tutoring service itself.

Leon Williams, a lawyer and director of Action Reading, said that the district is circumventing federal law by recycling money into its own system. "The biggest complaint is the district has a clear conflict of interest," he said. Daniel Ascher, president of A+ Tutoring, said that his firm was shut out of the selection process because the district failed to send him necessary information before the deadline. "Unfortunately, I don't think that the process was particularly fair," said Ascher.

Philadelphia Inquirer, "City schools challenged on tutoring," July 7, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education for All: Choice, Reform, and Optimism," June 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

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

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at

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