MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume IV, No. 2
January 15, 2002

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Contents of this issue:
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* Proposal A school funding reform Engler's "greatest policy achievement"
* Hearings scheduled on softer school accreditation plan
* Michigan students continue to struggle on state tests
* Teacher retention, salaries discussed in Detroit
* New federal education bill: false hope?
* School bus driver fired after "sick-out"

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PROPOSAL A SCHOOL FUNDING REFORM ENGLER'S "GREATEST POLICY ACHIEVEMENT"
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LANSING, Mich. - In a series of articles summing up the governorship
of John Engler, the Detroit Free Press is calling Michigan's Proposal A,
Engler's school finance plan passed in 1994, his "greatest policy
achievement in the breadth of issues it addressed and the political
crosscurrents it overcame."

"It was the envy of other states where disparities in spending among
schools prompted courts to order changes where legislatures had
failed," wrote reporter Chris Christoff in the Jan. 15 article.

"State government never looked so good as it did in that six-month
period before the March 1994 election, with the array of bipartisan
support you had for Proposal A," said Craig Ruff, president of Public
Sector Consultants of Lansing.

The plan, which transferred the bulk of school funding responsibility
from local property owners to the state, drastically reduced property
taxes and narrowed the wide funding disparity among school districts.
It also provided an attraction for businesses to come to the state,
lowering unemployment.
________
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Engler's Michigan: Gamble on Proposal A pays off
for governor," Jan. 15, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/mich/gov15_20020115.htm

Detroit Free Press, "Taxes and Schools: An untimely vote keeps funds,
programs at bay in Chippewa Valley," Jan. 15, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/mich/suburb15_20020115.htm

Detroit Free Press, "Taxes and Schools: In rural Vermontville,
infusion of cash means more teachers, books," Jan. 15, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/mich/rural15_20020115.htm

Detroit Free Press, "Taxes and Schools: Turnaround dramatic in Oak
Park after years of struggle," Jan. 15, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/opark15_20020115.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Fix Michigan Schools with Proposal
A+," December 7, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/article.asp?ID=3882


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HEARINGS SCHEDULED ON SOFTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY PLAN
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LANSING, Mich. - The softer school accreditation system adopted by
Michigan's Department of Education after it was discovered that more
than 1,000 Michigan schools might flunk a plan crafted by former
school Superintendent Arthur Ellis, will be presented to the public in
meetings Thursday in Detroit and Friday in Farmington Hills.

The meetings are two of seven scheduled forums statewide to discuss
the accreditation system. First introduced by Superintendent of Public
Instruction Thomas Watkins in December, the new accreditation plan
would assign grades to schools based on three years of Michigan
Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test scores and other factors.

A stricter accreditation system that took then-outgoing school
Superintendent Ellis three years to develop was dropped in June after
schools complained about its standards.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Hearings scheduled on school rating plan,"
Jan. 14, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/schools/0201/14/d01-390333.htm

Grand Rapids Press, "Educators question grade plan for schools,"
Jan. 14, 2002
http://www.gr.mlive.com/news/index.ssf?/news/stories/20020114gacchea
ri104303.frm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?",
Dec. 18, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/article.asp?ID=3919


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MICHIGAN STUDENTS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE ON STATE TESTS
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LANSING, Mich. - Despite the fact that Michigan students scored higher
in every subject area on the state achievement test than their
counterparts a year earlier, thousands of students continued to have
trouble meeting basic academic expectations in 2001.

"Students are performing in all of the subject matters at a higher
standard than a year ago, so there is clearly progress," Michael
Boulus, state deputy treasurer, told the Detroit Free Press. "I'm not
sure we can declare victory, but I'm confident we can declare
progress."

Writing scores saw the biggest gain, with 68 percent of the 2001 class
who took the test scoring at the top two of four achievement levels,
compared to 58 percent for students in 2000.

The state has drastically cut the number of questions requiring
students to write out answers in their own words because they're too
expensive to grade, opting to replace the questions with multiple-
choice.
________
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Students improve state test scores,"
Jan. 12, 2001
http://www.freep.com/news/education/merit12_20020112.htm

Detroit Free Press, "Budget cuts lead state to change MEAP tests,"
Jan. 9, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/meap9_20020109.htm


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TEACHER RETENTION, SALARIES DISCUSSED IN DETROIT
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DETROIT, Mich. - Despite the fact that the Detroit Public School
District faces a projected $88-million-to-$118-million revenue
shortfall next year, the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) is
expected to ask the district for a 14-percent pay raise over three
years during contract negotiations, which began on Monday.

Officials on both sides say they are hopeful that starting
negotiations early will lead to a deal before summer vacation is over.
Failed negotiations three years ago led to a bitter nine-day strike
just after the state took control of the school district.

But artificially increasing salaries and reducing class sizes will not
solve the district's problems, according to the Mackinac Center for
Public Policy. Brouillette argues that pay will become equitable for
educators only when the teaching profession becomes competitive like
other careers.
________
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Public Schools talks focus on teacher
retention and salaries," Jan. 14, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/talks14_20020114.htm

Detroit News, "Teacher contracts on tap," Jan. 11, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/schools/0201/11/d01-388050.htm

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit schools begin layoffs," Jan. 8, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/cuts8_20020108.htm

Michigan Education Report, "Increase teachers' pay the right
way," Sept. 13, 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/3084

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Class Size Reduction is
Expensive," Oct. 5, 1998
http://www.mackinac.org/1282

Michigan Education Report, "Lack of Support Makes Teachers Quit,"
Aug. 15, 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2214


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NEW FEDERAL EDUCATION BILL: FALSE HOPE?
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Critics of the new federal education bill, approved
by Congress and President Bush, say it "will do little to help
children who are falling behind because they are trapped in failing
public schools," and further usurps the authority of local communities
to run their own schools.

David Salisbury, director of the Cato Institute Center for Educational
Freedom, says the legislation represents a 50-year trend toward more
federal control over education.

Salisbury says the answer to failing schools is parental choice -
allowing students to attend the schools that best serve their
individual needs. "We could have parental choice in every state
within five years if the parents, activists and local elected
officials are willing to work for it," he says.
Salisbury points out that "last year at least 20 states proposed
implementing school choice either through vouchers or tuition tax credits
and 10 states have passed school choice measures."
________
SOURCES:
FoxNews.com, "New education bill offers false hope," Jan. 10, 2002
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,42679,00.html

Detroit News, "President signs education bill," Jan. 8, 2002
http://detnews.com/2002/schools/0201/10/-385490.htm

Detroit News, "Law caps Bush's school reform bid," Jan. 9, 2002
http://detnews.com/2002/schools/0201/10/a05-386222.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling:
Restoring Parental Control of Education," January 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/article.asp?ID=3236


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SCHOOL BUS DRIVER FIRED AFTER "SICK-OUT"
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- An Ann Arbor school bus driver who was the
rallying point for a Dec. 20 "sick-out" has been fired for alleged
insubordination and for her role in organizing the sick-out that left
students stranded at bus stops and parents scrambling to get children
to school.

The sick-out, in which 38 of about 100 drivers called in sick,
occurred Thursday before the holiday break and prompted administrators
to cancel nearly all morning and afternoon bus routes.

Driver Monica Wafford received a termination letter, citing 12 reasons
for her firing, including several incidents of insubordination to
supervisors, verbal abuse of transportation department staff, failure
to follow district guidelines and "planning and initiating an illegal
work stoppage."
________
SOURCE:
Ann Arbor News, "District fires school bus driver after sick-out,"
Jan. 10, 2002
http://aa.mlive.com/news/index.ssf?/news/stories/20020110a740ama1dri
ver10.frm


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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 Elizabeth H. Moser at
med@educationreport.org
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