Contents of this issue:
  • Percentage of Michigan residents with college degrees up; state still lags nationally

  • State SAT scores down, remain above national average

  • D.C. school vouchers place over 1,000 in schools of choice

  • New state budget plan may affect ISDs, stay clear of local districts

  • College tuition savings program opens enrollment

  • Wayne county clerk OKs Detroit school board ballot question

DETROIT, Mich. — The percentage of Michigan adults with college degrees is up slightly over the past three years, but the state still lags behind the nationwide average of residents with at least a bachelor's degree.

The percentage of adults in the state with at least a four-year degree increased one point between 2000 and 2003, from 23 percent to 24 percent. Nationwide, the number of adults with a college degree increased from 25 percent to 27 percent over the same period. "People are understanding the importance of a college degree," said Jack Kay, an associate provost at Wayne State University. "When I go into high schools, there is much more of a sense you really need college for the information demand out there."

The data comes from an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey of 800,000 people. According to the survey, the portion of adults in Michigan with a high school degree is 87 percent, compared to 84 percent nationwide. But shifts in technology and information-based work make college degrees worth more than in the past, according to experts. "We have to make sure we have an educated workforce ... that are ready to be in place to handle these jobs," said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Detroit News, "Michigan makes strides in educating its residents," Sept. 1, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence," January 2002

DETROIT, Mich. — The state average on the annual SAT test declined this year, but stayed above the aggregate national average for the test, which is taken by U.S. high school students seeking admission to college.

Scores on the math section averaged down three points to 573, while scores on the verbal section declined one point to 563. Nationwide, the average score was 508 on the verbal and 518 on the math (the highest possible combined score is 1600).

But only 11 percent of students statewide take the SAT exam, which is not as popular as the competing ACT test. Experts say this small sample makes it difficult to draw conclusions from the results.

Michigan students had been improving their average score since 1999, improving by six points on the verbal section and eight points on the math. A new test will debut this spring, replacing the well-known verbal analogy section with an essay and altering the maximum total score. Students currently have a choice on whether to take the new test or stick with the old one until it is phased out next year.

Detroit News, "State SAT scores decline," Sept. 1, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Which Educational Achievement Test is Best for Michigan?" May 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000

BOSTON, Mass. — According to the program directors of the nation's first federally funded voucher program, response to the voucher offering in Washington, D.C., was overwhelming, enabling children from failing schools to attend other schools chosen by parents.

This spring, a voucher program called the Washington Scholarship Fund, started to help District of Columbia schoolchildren, began offering scholarships of up to $7,500 towards tuition at private and parochial schools around the city. In 17 days, over 8,500 students' families made inquiries into the program, and about 1,800 of them met program requirements for eligibility.

Currently, the program has accepted 1,011 students. "The fact that so many families applied for and accepted these scholarships shows the demand for quality educational options," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams. Some of the 53 schools that have accepted the voucher students had tuitions higher than the $7,500 maximum scholarship, but waived the extra fees to get children into their institutions. Tuition vouchers allow families to use government money to attend the school of their choice — one of many forms of school choice used in the United States today. Another popular form of school choice is the tuition tax credit, which allows parents to receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on their child's tuition at a school of their choice.

Boston Globe, "Students use vouchers to flee D.C. schools," Sept. 1, 2004 students_use_vouchers_to_flee_dc_schools/

Mackinac Center for Public Policy speech, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which Is the Better Choice for School Choice?" July 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Forging Consensus," April 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits," Spring 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," January 2001

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A prolonged battle over a $1 billion state deficit may affect funding for intermediate school districts and other state-funded agencies, but for now will not cut state aid to local school districts.

In fact, the new budget plan projects an increase in per-student state aid of 74 dollars to local school districts, though districts that receive more than $9,000 per student will not receive the hike. The increase comes in part from a funding cut for ISDs, which will receive a decrease of about 16 percent, according to lawmakers. The efficacy and oversight of intermediate districts has been questioned in the last several years due to a number of ISD scandals.

Intermediate school district officials disagreed with the cuts, saying it will affect how they run their agencies, which provide various administrative and support services to local districts. "Anytime they cut categoricals, it disproportionately affects school districts around the state," said Becky Rocho, an administrator with the Calhoun Intermediate School District.

Lawmakers beginning Wednesday will take up the plan, which also suggests cuts and alterations to several other state departments and programs.

Battle Creek Enquirer, "Education cuts may be ahead," Sept. 3, 2004 article?AID=/20040903/NEWS01/409030312/1002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan's Budget Deficit Calls for Structural Reforms," August 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," December 2002

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

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

Michigan Education Report, "Group files complaints against districts," Spring 2000

DETROIT, Mich. — A state-run savings plan that essentially helps parents prepay college tuition at state universities opened enrollment last week, as good investment returns have provided enough capital for new contracts to be offered.

Currently, contracts with the Michigan Education Trust for a 15-year payment plan will cost $68 per month, which would total a one-time payment of $7,028. That would cover one year of tuition at any Michigan public university when the child turns 18. Approximately 74,000 MET contracts have been sold since the program debuted.

The MET program currently holds $963 million in assets, a stronger asset level than last year, allowing the state Treasury Department to open the program for new contract purchases this year. According to the department, 2,600 parents in 2001 purchased MET contracts, and the number increased to 4,400 last year.

The MET program was recently restarted, although former Gov. John Engler had put it on hold, arguing that private options were less expensive and better-performing than the state-run program. Some economists believe the state's program is unsustainable in the long run because government programs have in the past been unable to predict market prices better than private program managers.

Detroit News, "Enrollment open for prepay college tuition," Sept. 3, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Michigan Education Trust: A Political Economy Perspective," March 1990

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Advancing Civil Society: A State Budget to Strengthen Michigan Culture," April 1996

DETROIT, Mich. — The Wayne County clerk approved ballot language for November's vote in Detroit over the composition of its local school board.

State legislation in 1999 shifted control of the elected Detroit school board to mayoral appointees and a state official. Five years later, the city is holding a vote under that legislation on whether to restore control to a wholly elected board — the type that was in place before the takeover — or to keep a board similar to the current one, with a CEO nominated and controlled by the mayor.

Detroit's current mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, supports the new measure, designated as Proposal E. A decision last week by the Detroit Election Commission allowed explanations of the proposal's language on the ballot, and these have been certified by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett. "I've been a strong advocate of educating voters and concur with the findings of the Detroit Elections Commission to ensure that the voters are informed and knowledgeable of the proposal," said Garrett.

Detroit Free Press, "Clerk OKs school ballot explanation," Sept. 1, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Compromise Gives Archer Control of Detroit Schools," Spring 1999

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit's Reform School Board Would Be Wise to Privatize," June 1999

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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