MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 5
Feb. 4, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/

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Contents of this issue:
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* Coalition urges tax increases to fill state budget gaps
* Michigan Education Association reports $10.7 million deficit
* Oakland Schools dismisses superintendent
* GAO releases biannual report on performance of U.S. Dept. of
  Education
* Commentary: The truth about grade inflation
* D.C. teachers union investigation broadens to bank

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COALITION URGES TAX INCREASES TO FILL STATE BUDGET GAPS
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LANSING, Mich. – A newly formed group, the Red Cedar Coalition,
is lobbying for tax increases as a solution to the impending
state budget deficit. The group was formed largely by the efforts
of Lu Battaglieri and the Michigan Education Association, which
he leads.

The coalition, consisting primarily of social service and
education groups, suggests that the only way to avoid a deficit
is to either raise taxes or apply the state sales tax to certain
services. Currently, the 6 percent tax applies only to goods.

The state has already cut over $130 million in education funding
to reduce the deficit. Gov. Jennifer Granholm and many state
officials have stated on several occasions that the best way to
fix the state's funding problems is cost cutting, not tax
increases. "I don't think a tax increase is anywhere on the
horizon," Bill Nowling, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader
Ken Sikkema (R-Wyoming), told the Detroit Free Press.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Tax services and spare budget, coalition
urges," Jan. 23, 2003
http://www.freep.com/news/mich/tax23_20030123.htm

Detroit News, "Lobbyists meet to begin fighting state spending
cuts," Jan. 25, 2003
http://www.detnews.com/2003/politics/0301/25/politics-68566.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan's Budget Challenge,"
January 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/4964

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Proposed Budget Reductions
for the Michigan Department of Agriculture," January 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/4984


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MICHIGAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION REPORTS $10.7 MILLION DEFICIT
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Education Association, the
state's largest public school employees union, reported a $10.7
million budget deficit for the current fiscal year. The amount
comes to about 18 percent of its annual $60.9 million budget.

The union's retirement and health-care costs have increased by an
unexpected $8.6 million, according to the Detroit News, while
income from dues has decreased because districts aren't hiring
teachers to fill vacancies. Although not required to do so, most
Michigan public school labor agreements require employees to
support the union financially.

"Like other businesses and organizations out there that are
having problems, we have to look closely at how we operate,
streamline where we can, nip and tuck," Margaret Trimer-Hartley,
spokeswoman for the union, told the Detroit News. MEA officials
are considering options such as union staff layoffs and increases
in union dues to reduce the deficit.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Teachers union suffers deficit," Feb. 2, 2003
http://www.detnews.com/2003/schools/0302/02/b01-74457.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Unions:
Helping or Hurting?"
http://www.mackinac.org/9399

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special
Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," January 1993
http://www.mackinac.org/8


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OAKLAND SCHOOLS DISMISSES SUPERINTENDENT
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WATERFORD, Mich. – James Redmond, superintendent of Oakland
Schools, lost his post last Friday because of alleged misuse of
$680,000 in district funds and misappropriation of special
education revenues.

According to the Oakland school board's findings, Redmond
arranged unapproved buyouts for the resignation of 15 district
employees and used $450 of professional development money for
personal flying lessons. He also reportedly used money earmarked
for special education to build a new $29.5 million building.

Many district employees were astonished at the news, remarking
that Redmond was an excellent leader. "He's done so much for
schools, especially for highly needy youngsters," commented Alex
Bailey, superintendent of Oak Park Schools. "I'm surprised to
hear the findings."
______
SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "Board fires Oakland's school chief,"
Feb. 1, 2003
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/ois1_20030201.htm


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GAO RELEASES BIANNUAL REPORT ON PERFORMANCE OF U.S. DEPT. OF
EDUCATION
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report released by the U.S. General
Accounting Office (GAO) has criticized the U.S. Department of
Education's administration of several programs, calling it
unsatisfactory. The programs include student aid for college and
President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program. The report lists
several key shortcomings in these programs and suggests
improvements.

"Education needs to continue to address systems integration
issues, reduce fraud and error in student aid application and
disbursement processes, collect on students loan defaults, and
improve its human capital management," the report states.

The report concludes that accountability is necessary for the
Department to reduce waste and administer its prescribed duties
efficiently.
______
SOURCE:
General Accounting Office, "Major Management Challenges and
Program Risks: Department of Education," January 2003
http://www.gao.gov/pas/2003/d0399.pdf


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COMMENTARY: THE TRUTH ABOUT GRADE INFLATION
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DALLAS, Texas – Grade inflation is a widespread problem that must
be addressed, according to Bruce Bartlett, a senior fellow with
the National Center for Policy Analysis. Teachers that hand out
good grades without student merit are the instigators of this
problem, remarks Bartlett in a commentary released by the
National Center for Policy Analysis.

Professors are forced to give good grades in order to keep their
courses popular among students, says Bartlett. Another instigator
of the phenomenon was the Vietnam War, during which teachers
would give male students higher grades so that they would be able
to stay in school and not be drafted into the military.

Some schools with notably high numbers of "honors" and all-A
students are beginning to crack down on grade inflation. At
Harvard, 91 percent of the class of 2000 graduated with honors,
prompting the school to cap the number of students that could
graduate with that title.
_______
SOURCES:
National Center for Policy Analysis, "The Truth About Grade
Inflation," Feb. 3, 2003
http://www.ncpa.org/edo/bb/2003/bb020303.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial
Education," August 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/3025


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D.C. TEACHERS' UNION INVESTIGATION BROADENS TO BANK
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of
more than $5 million from the Washington, D.C. teachers union has
expanded after investigators found more reports of wrongdoing by
the local union's executives.

Leroy Holmes, a former driver for the union's former president,
allegedly cashed union checks, some in excess of $10,000, and
deposited most of the funds in the personal accounts of union
officials. Several of those checks had Holmes' name written above
another scratched-out name, according to an FBI affidavit.

The bank, Independence Federal, is under subpoena as a witness in
the case. "Independence Federal is in the process of producing
documents sought by the U.S. attorney," A. Scott Bolden, legal
counsel for the bank, told the Washington Times. "Our goal is the
same as everyone else involved - to get to the bottom of these
allegations."
_______
SOURCES:
Washington Times, "Union probe spreads to bank," Feb. 3, 2003
http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20030203-7397497.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Unions:
Helping or Hurting?"
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 Neil Block at
[mailto:med@educationreport.org]

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