MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 11
March 18, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/

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Contents of this issue:
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* Public school debt reaches $200 billion
* Secretary of Education defends No Child Left Behind Act
* School choice increases funding, say schools
* Parochial schools oppose standardized testing, cheer vouchers
* Michigan schools sign prayer agreement

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PUBLIC SCHOOL DEBT REACHES $200 BILLION
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nation's public schools have a combined
debt of over $200 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The figure, which comes from 2000-2001 school year data,
underscores the funding troubles schools are now facing.

Schools invested nearly $36 billion in new construction during
that school year, up 13 percent from the previous year. Much of
that money came from bond issues, which drive up school
districts' debt. School spending on the whole is up as well –
the average per-pupil expenditure nationwide for 2000-2001 was up
7 percent from the previous year to $7,284.

Schools will have to repay their debt even after funding cuts,
which will be made due to the negative economic climate, reports
CNN. "Education is such a sacred cow, usually in an economic
downturn, it doesn't get hit as hard," said Steve Smith,
education policy analyst for the National Council of State
Legislatures. "But given the magnitude of the budget crisis
today, it's on the table."
_______
SOURCES:
CNN, "Spending, debt climb for U.S. schools," Mar. 13, 2003
http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/03/12/school.spending.ap/index.html

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally
Responsible Public School Districts," December 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4891


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SECRETARY OF EDUCATION DEFENDS NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rod Paige, the U.S. Secretary of Education,
met last Friday with the National Association of State Boards of
Education to discuss and defend new laws and programs created by
the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

"We find that the Department of Education gives us very little
flexibility," Kathleen N. Straus, a Michigan State Board of
Education member from Lansing, remarked. "We wondered if there's
any chance of that flexibility showing up in their interpretation
of what we are supposed to do?" she asked Paige.

"This legislation says that almost one-half of the dollars, $23
billion, can be used in a flexible manner. We don't tell you how
to use it," responded Paige. However, states are held accountable
for demonstrating the "adequate yearly progress" of every student
in the state.
_______
SOURCES:
Washington Times, "To school officials, education secretary urges
change," Mar. 15, 2003
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030315-10518572.htm

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands
'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for
parents," Fall 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4846

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Bush's education package
threatens local control," May 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3661


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SCHOOL CHOICE INCREASES FUNDING, SAY SCHOOLS
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – School districts around the state are
opening their borders to outside students in order to achieve
greater state funding and decrease their budget deficits, reports
the Grand Rapids Press.

Each additional student that enters a district brings a guarantee
of at least $6,700 in aid to that district. "Like a lot of
districts, we're always looking for new opportunities to generate
revenue," said Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent John Felske.
Wyoming Schools could receive an additional $900,000 per year if
it attracts 135 students from other schools.

Grand Rapids Public Schools used to be one of the most
restrictive districts for school choice in the state; only 30 of
its 25,000 students were permitted to leave the district each
year. Now, however, there is no limit on the number of students
who can leave a district. Schools can limit the number of
students coming into the building due to class-size limits.

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bert Bleke said he doesn't need
gimmicks like a cap to protect the district's schools. "My job is
to worry about Grand Rapids and to be concerned with making it
the very best it can be. I believe that if we can do that,
everything else will take care of itself."
_______
SOURCES:
Grand Rapids Press, "School choice's simple equation: More
students = more money," Mar. 16, 2003
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news-7/104781354189320.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School
Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2962

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in
Schooling," January 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3236


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PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS OPPOSE STANDARDIZED TESTING, CHEER VOUCHERS
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BATON ROUGE, La. – Legislators in the state of Louisiana are
considering bills that would establish a school voucher system
whereby students could use taxpayer money to attend the private
school of their choice.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans and parents are calling for
greater parental choice in education through the proposed voucher
system. However, the Archdiocese said that their schools do not
need the standardized testing requirements that some legislators
say are necessary.

State school officials want parochial schools to participate in
the state's standardized test in order to ensure accountability.
"We feel that we have an obligation to taxpayers to show they are
getting the most bang for their buck," Mike Wang, education
policy analyst for the state, told the New Orleans Times-
Picayune.
_______
SOURCES:
Times-Picayune, "Vouchers OK, not standardized testing, Catholic
schools insist," Mar. 13, 2003
http://www.nolalive.com/news/t-p/capital/index.ssf?/base/news-0/104753851619741.xml

Michigan Education Report, "Vouchers give poor students a
chance," Spring 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2873


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MICHIGAN SCHOOLS SIGN PRAYER AGREEMENT
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LANSING, Mich. – Under rules set by the No Child Left Behind Act
of 2002, all Michigan school districts, intermediate districts
and charter schools had to submit a letter by Saturday to the
state Department of Education certifying that their district does
not impede constitutionally protected school prayer.

In February, Bush administration officials released guidelines on
how districts can comply with the Constitution and allow prayer
in schools during certain parts of the day. Along with the
guidelines was a mandate that districts must comply with the
guidelines. If districts do not sign the agreement, they risk
losing federal funding for reading and after-school programs.

Students are allowed to join Bible study groups and pray silently
during "moments of silence," neither of which can be encouraged
or discouraged by school officials. In addition, schools may
speak about religion or have religious speakers at events but
cannot imply endorsement of religion.
_______
SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "Schools must certify prayer is OK,"
Mar. 13, 2003
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news-1/1047503402200880.xml

U.S. Department of Education, "Guidance on Constitutionally
Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,"
February 2003
http://www.ed.gov/inits/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html


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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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