MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 17
April 29, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/

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Contents of this issue:
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* State allows new charter schools
* Report finds students' writing skills decline
* African-American parents embracing home schooling
* Protests organized against education budget cuts
* Michigan schools confirm prayer is protected

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STATE ALLOWS NEW CHARTER SCHOOLS
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LANSING, Mich. – Seven new charter schools will open next fall
now that the state superintendent of schools has assigned the
school code numbers that allow state funding to flow to the
academies.

Earlier this month, Tom Watkins, Michigan's superintendent of
public instruction, refused to assign school codes to seven
charter schools. Bay Mills Community College chartered the
schools, set to open this fall, but the schools were not eligible
for state aid until the state superintendent assigned official
school identification codes.

Watkins relented under public pressure and accusations that he
was denying the codes to the Bay Mills-sponsored schools to make
a political statement instead of following the law, which allows
the college to charter schools at will.
________
SOURCES:
Ann Arbor News, "Charter schools to get funds," Apr. 26, 2003
http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news-4/1051352294301090.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on
Charter Schools," November 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4864

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


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REPORT FINDS STUDENTS' WRITING SKILLS DECLINE
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CHICAGO, Ill. – American high school and college students have
unsatisfactory writing skills, according to a study released last
week. The study was partly based on a test that asked students to
describe a haunted house in one paragraph.

Forty-eight percent of the responses were judged unsatisfactory,
and only 50 percent were "adequate" according to the report. "I
think we have a great foe. I think it's apathy, and I think it's
low expectations," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College
Board, which commissioned the study. The College Board is most
renowned for its SAT achievement test.

The problem, say some involved with the study, is the lack of
writing being taught in schools. "Students do want to know how to
write. They want to write well. It's just that they are captives
to a system that does not accommodate their needs," said study
participant Joyce Elliot, a high school English teacher and
Arkansas lawmaker.
_______
SOURCES:
Contra Costa Times, "Report finds decline in writing skills,"
Apr. 25, 2003
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/news/breaking_news/5715872.htm

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

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


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AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENTS EMBRACING HOME SCHOOLING
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DURHAM, N.C. – Thousands of African-American parents are home-
schooling their kids in a growing backlash against America's
public education system. Many parents believe the schools to
which their children are assigned are too dangerous, too
judgmental, or just bad fits.

According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, African-
American home-schooling parents are banding together into
networks, and "confronting Pythagoras and Shakespeare in venues
far beyond the living room: De facto districts are springing up
from suburban churches to YMCAs."

The total number of black home-schooling families remains small:
While roughly 9.5 million African Americans are enrolled in
public schools, about 120,000 are learning at home. But that's up
from just a few thousand in 1998. In 1997, about 1 percent of
home-schooled students were African American. Today that figure
is closer to 5 percent.
_______
SOURCES:
The Christian Science Monitor, "The new face of home
schooling," April 29, 2003
http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0429/p01s01-ussc.html

Michigan Education Report, "Home schooling works, study finds,"
Aug. 15, 1999
http://www.educationreport.org/2212

Michigan Education Report, "Home schoolers face investigation,
harassment from government officials," Sept. 8, 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4611


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PROTESTS ORGANIZED AGAINST EDUCATION BUDGET CUTS
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SEATTLE, Wash. – Protesters in several locations around the
country have rallied groups as large as 25,000 to denounce cuts
in state school budgets.

Many states, including Michigan, plan to cut funding for some
programs.

In Washington state, 25,000 people joined a rally at the state
capitol in Olympia to protest education cuts the state government
had deemed necessary in order to chop down a $2.6 billion budget
deficit.

"People were not there to whine or complain," Charles Hasse,
president of the Washington Education Association, which
organized the event, told the Associated Press. "We were there
with a sense of resolve and purpose. We're very serious about
this."
_______
SOURCES:
Seattle Times, "Education cuts draw protests around nation,"
Apr. 22, 2003
http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=schools22&date=20030422

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


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MICHIGAN SCHOOLS CONFIRM PRAYER IS PROTECTED
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LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Education announced
last Tuesday that all 798 school districts, charter schools and
intermediate school districts have sent the state a letter
declaring that they do not interfere with constitutionally
protected prayer.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 states that schools must
allow students to pray when appropriate, but must neither condone
nor discourage prayer. Schools may speak about religion or host
religious speakers but may not imply endorsement of any religion.
Schools that do not submit such a declaration could lose federal
funding under the Act.

"I'm pleased and impressed that all 700 and some school districts
complied with it, on time, and to the letter of the law," Jim
Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of
Secondary School Principals, told Booth Newspapers.
________
SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "Michigan schools confirm they permit
constitutionally protected prayer," Apr. 23, 2003
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news-2/1051051206317520.xml

U.S. Department of Education, "Guidance on Constitutionally
Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,"
February 2003
http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/other/2003-1/022803b.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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