MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume IV, No. 40
Oct. 8, 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/


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Contents of this issue:
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* River Rouge school officials suspended over financial scandal
* Editorial: Proposal 4 is bad policy
* Report: School security lax
* Editorial: Don't overbuild school districts
* Rep. Hart: Give Michigan Education Department more authority
* Union targets school official
* Editorial: Livonia school board botched superintendent search
* Students protest program cuts
* Opinion: Union's No. 1 goal is not learning


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RIVER ROUGE SCHOOL OFFICIALS SUSPENDED OVER FINANCIAL SCANDAL
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RIVER ROUGE, Mich. - The River Rouge school board has suspended
the district's superintendent, chief financial director and two
other officials with pay after an investigation revealed $1
million in possible financial irregularities.

A report released by the district showed hundreds of thousands of
dollars in contracts awarded without competitive bidding or the
approval of the school board. It also reveals missing inventory,
and $110,787 that was paid to the district's superintendent
without board authorization.

The district forwarded the report to the U.S. Attorney's Office,
the Michigan State Police and the state's Department of Treasury.
All three agencies are investigating whether criminal charges
should be brought against school workers as well as against some
of the companies the district paid.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "River Rouge school officials are suspended,"
Oct. 8, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/rouge8_20021008.htm

Detroit Free Press, "What the River Rouge school investigation
found," Oct. 8, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/rbox8_20021008.htm

Detroit News, "Misspending rocks River Rouge district,"
Oct. 8, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/schools/0210/08/a01-606831.htm



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EDITORIAL: PROPOSAL 4 IS BAD POLICY
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DETROIT, Mich. - A recent Detroit News editorial condemned
Proposal 4, an initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot, claiming the
"initiative transcends all others as the worst ever to appear on
a Michigan ballot."

Proposal 4 would alter the way Michigan spends its tobacco
settlement income. Most of the $300 million a year would be
diverted from the general fund and spent on health-care
initiatives. Prop 4 would achieve the shift by amending the
Michigan Constitution.

The Detroit News said Proposal 4 tampers with the fundamental law
of the state - the Constitution - and unnecessarily ties the
hands of the Legislature in dealing with changing needs.

Lawmakers, for example, would be prevented from putting more of
the tobacco settlement money into education, environmental
protection, crime prevention, fighting the West Nile virus - or
into any of the many problems that demand their attention - if
the proposal passed.
________
SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Prop 4 is Bad Policy," Oct. 6, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/editorial/0210/08/a16-605043.htm

Detroit News, "The truth about Proposal 4," Oct. 6, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/editorial/0210/06/a15-605056.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hot Topics: Proposal 02-04,"
Fall 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/article.asp?ID=4643


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REPORT: SCHOOL SECURITY LAX
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A survey released this week by the National
Association of School Resource Officers finds that 95 percent of
those responsible for school security described their schools as
vulnerable to acts of terror.

Most cited security gaps, too little training and support, and
inadequate crisis plans that, in many cases, have not been
tested.

The written survey of 658 school security officers, conducted at
the school officers' annual convention in July, found that: 83
percent said getting into their schools was very easy or somewhat
easy; 55 percent said their schools' crisis plans were
inadequate; and, 52 percent said the plans have never been
tested.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Terror Threats: Security is found lax in
schools across U.S.," Oct. 7, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/school7_20021007.htm

Detroit News, "Most schools lack crises response plan,"
Oct. 7, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/schools/0210/08/a03-605962.htm

Michigan Education Report, "'Zero-tolerance' policies aim to
reduce school violence," Fall 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/pubs/mer/article.aspx?ID=3893


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EDITORIAL: DON'T OVERBUILD SCHOOL DISTRICTS
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DETROIT, Mich. - A Sunday Detroit News editorial calls for
districts to consider temporary quarters, leasing and other space
alternatives instead of jumping into new construction to handle
student overflows.

The News said growing suburban districts should carefully
consider their options before building new schools that may be
empty before they are paid for.

The editorial cited a recent series of articles by the News,
which showed that taxpayers can end up paying for buildings long
after they're no longer needed for instruction.

"The constant scramble to scrap older builders for newer ones may
not pay off in the classroom," the News opined. Other options
include " ... erecting temporary quarters, leasing space from
neighboring districts, and designing schools that can be easily
converted or sold when demographics change. Making do on a
temporary basis can give taxpayers a break. And putting extra
resources in programs rather than bricks and mortar promises
immediate payoffs," the News added.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Don't Overbuild School Districts," Oct. 6, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/editorial/0210/08/a16-605041.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Need for Debt Policy in
Michigan Public Schools," Jan. 1998
http://www.mackinac.org/363


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REP. HART: GIVE MICHIGAN EDUCATION DEPARTMENT MORE AUTHORITY
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LANSING, Mich. - A bill recently co-sponsored by state Rep. Doug
Hart, R-Plainfield Township, would give more power to the
Democrat-controlled state Board of Education and its hand-picked
state superintendent, Tom Watkins.

The bill would re-consolidate programs such as MEAP testing,
adult and vocational education and school evaluation from the
Department of Treasury and various other government departments
back into the Department of Education.

Hart said he created the bills because he believes many Michigan
educators are "becoming demoralized by having to deal with an
unsympathetic, incompetent state work force."

Gov. John Engler's office opposes the shift. "Why would we want
to bring all this authority back to a do-nothing state board that
can't even get an accreditation plan in place after two years?"
Engler spokeswoman Susan Shafer asked.
_______
SOURCE:
Grand Rapids Press, "Hart wants to revive Education Department,"
Oct. 3, 2002
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard
.xsl?/base/news-4/1033667172223283.xml


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UNION TARGETS SCHOOL OFFICIAL
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PONTIAC, Mich. - The union representing administrators in the
Pontiac school district has filed a sexual harassment grievance
against Superintendent Walter Burt over comments they say he made
about two female employees during an Aug. 16 meeting.

The grievance, filed with the Pontiac school district Aug. 26 by
the union, has been questioned by school board members.

Richard Seay, a school board trustee, told the Detroit Free Press
that although the two female employees did not file a sexual
harassment complaint against Burt themselves, "the union felt
compelled to do so on behalf of them."

"I just find it hard to believe that somebody can file a
complaint on behalf of somebody else. They're not offended, but
you can be offended for them. I just have a problem with that
part of it," Seay said.

G. Kevin Gross, vice president of the Pontiac board of education,
told the Free Press it will be up to the board to determine what
to do with the complaint. But he said he feels the incident is
being blown out of proportion.
_______
SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "Union targets school official," Oct. 7, 2002
http://www.freep.com/news/education/npont7_20021007.htm


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EDITORIAL: LIVONIA SCHOOL BOARD BOTCHED SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH
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LIVONIA, Mich. - A Detroit News editorial says the Livonia school
board's appointment of district financial manager Randy Liepa to
the superintendent position was hasty and careless.

The News called Liepa "a solid choice to head the Livonia Public
Schools," but questioned the way he was selected as Livonia's
school superintendent.

Though the board had hired a consultant - the Michigan Leadership
Institute - to assist with a national search for a suitable
candidate to lead the state's 5th-largest school district, it
scrapped the search plan, which allowed time for public comment,
and elevated Liepa to the job in a special meeting last week.

"Parents, students and taxpayers got cheated out of the benefits
of a national search that may have brought forward candidates who
presented another, and perhaps more innovative, vision for
improving Livonia's schools," the News said.
_______
SOURCE:
Detroit News, "Livonia School Board Botches Search," Oct. 8, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/editorial/0210/08/a08-606274.htm


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STUDENTS PROTEST PROGRAM CUTS
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LANSING, Mich. - Up to 100 Lansing middle-school students skipped
classes Wednesday to protest the loss of extra-curricular
activities due to budget cuts.

MacDonald Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders demonstrated
against the $12,000 cut made in the spring that stopped payment
for teachers to run fine-arts activities after school.

Although the protest did not spur an agreement between students
and school officials, students who participated in the protest
received an unexcused absence for the day's work, Principal Jack
Bamford told the Lansing State Journal.
_______
SOURCES:
Lansing State Journal, "MacDonald Middle School students protest
program cuts," Oct. 3, 2002
http://www.lsj.com/news/schools/021003_protest_1b.html

Detroit News, "Parent groups pay to keep school activities
available," Oct. 8, 2002
http://www.detnews.com/2002/schools/0210/08/c01-606578.htm

Viewpoint on Public Issues, "School Funding: Lack of Money, or
Lack of Money Management?," Aug. 30, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/article.asp?ID=3683


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OPINION: UNION'S NO. 1 GOAL IS NOT LEARNING
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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A recent Philadelphia Inquirer opinion
editorial accuses the Pennsylvania State Education Association
(PSEA) of not having the education of children as its top priority.

Responding to a rash of threatened teacher strikes across the
state, Matthew Brouillette, president of Pennsylvania's
Commonwealth Foundation, said "the education of children is
rarely, if ever, the reason for work stoppages."

Brouillette said the reason Pennsylvania teacher unions are
threatening strikes is because when teacher salaries increase, so
do dues to the unions.

"...despite revenue increases that are double and triple the rate
of inflation over the last 30 years for the public schools, it is
union officials - not teachers - who are the real financial
beneficiaries," said Brouillette. "In 2000-01, the average PSEA
employee salary was $73,388, or 48 percent higher than the
average Pennsylvania teacher, and 116 percent more than the
average worker in Pennsylvania. Nearly one out of three PSEA
employees received salaries of more than $100,000," he said.
_______
SOURCES:
Philadelphia Inquirer, "Union's No. 1 goal is not learning," Oct.
4, 2002
http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/opinion/local2/4209407.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Is the Michigan Education
Association helping or hurting schools and students?," Fall 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/9399



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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
[mailto:med@educationreport.org]

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