MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 18
May 6, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/

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Contents of this issue:
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* FBI raids Florida teachers' union headquarters
* Commentary: Charter schools still misunderstood
* Federal government issues school prayer guidelines
* Some Michigan schools lack qualified teachers
* States fail to list districts in need of improvement

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FBI RAIDS FLORIDA TEACHERS' UNION HEADQUARTERS
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MIAMI, Fla. – Allegations of financial irregularities within the
Miami-Dade County teachers' union led to an FBI raid last Tuesday
morning at the union's headquarters.

The alleged financial problems, reported in depth by the
Education Intelligence Agency, a private, for-profit contract
research firm, began in 2000 when sources say union boss Pat
Tornillo used union money for personal benefit. Two years later,
the union was in arrears because it could not pay dues to its
parent union, the American Federation of Teachers.

The case is similar to an incident involving the Washington, D.C.
teachers union earlier this year, in which the union failed to
disclose financial irregularities and misappropriation of funds.
________
SOURCES:
CNN, "Florida teachers union under investigation," April 30, 2003
http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/04/30/teacher.union.investigation.ap/index.html

Education Intelligence Agency, "The Tip of the Iceberg - The
Story Behind the United Teachers of Dade Scandal," May 5, 2003
http://members.aol.com/educationintel/communique.htm


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COMMENTARY: CHARTER SCHOOLS STILL MISUNDERSTOOD
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BOSTON, Mass. – In a MetroWest Daily News commentary, Marc Kenen,
Ed.D., executive director of the Massachusetts Charter School
Association, outlines 10 myths about charter schools he says the
Massachusetts Teachers' Association (MTA) is using to halt the
expansion of charter schools and to lobby for cuts in funding.

Kenen says the union is fabricating information, which is
creating public misunderstanding of what charter schools are and
why they have become a nationwide phenomenon.

He says it makes no sense for the MTA to say that charter schools
drain money from public schools, since "Charter schools are
public schools." He also points out that two-thirds of charter
school grade levels in Massachusetts outperformed their district
school peers on the state achievement test.
_______
SOURCES:
Metrowest Daily News, "Top 10 myths about charter schools,"
April 30, 2003
http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/columnists/colkenen04302003.htm

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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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ISSUES SCHOOL PRAYER GUIDELINES
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HOUSTON, Tex. – The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice
have released an 11-page set of school prayer guidelines public
schools must follow in order to receive federal funding. The
guidelines state specifically that schools are not "religion-free
zones," and that district officials are not to be prayer police.

The guidelines make clear that any type of student speech is
protected under the First Amendment, even when it contains
religious messages, as long as the school does not make any
attempt to endorse the speaker's views.

Any type of school prayer is to be permitted as long as it does
not interfere with the education of other students, affirming
what is called a "negative right" to religious expression.

The guidelines point out that the U.S. Constitution's
Establishment Clause "prohibits state officials from making
judgments about what constitutes an appropriate prayer, and from
favoring or disfavoring certain types of prayers."
_______
SOURCE:
Houston Chronicle, "Shock and awe of a resurgence in school
prayer," April 30, 2003
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/editorial/outlook/1890939


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SOME MICHIGAN SCHOOLS LACK QUALIFIED TEACHERS
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LANSING, Mich. – Some Michigan schools lack teachers who meet the
definition of quality set by the federal "No Child Left Behind"
Act of 2002, says a new report.

The study, released last Wednesday by the Education Policy Center
at Michigan State University, reports that schools in urban or
poor areas have a smaller number of quality teachers than is
required by the new federal law. Under the Act, teachers must be
"highly qualified" by the 2005-2006 school year.

The requirements state that teachers must be fully certified and
requires that they demonstrate competency in the subject they
teach. Critics of the law say it poses a problem in districts
that have trouble attracting teachers, especially for specialized
areas such as physics or special education.
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SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Study: Not all Michigan schools have highly
qualified teachers," May 1, 2003
http://www.freep.com/news/latestnews/pm14324_20030501.htm

Michigan Education Report, "Michigan lagging in teacher quality
says federal agency," Early Fall 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4603


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STATES FAIL TO LIST DISTRICTS IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A survey of 18 state departments of education
found that one-third of those states have yet to compile a list
of districts in need of improvement as required by federal law.

The "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2002 requires that states
compile such a list to identify districts that may need
assistance in raising test scores or helping students. Some
states, however, have not attempted to create such a list. And
some schools in states that have created lists are not aware that
they are on that list.

Many states are bending federal requirements to meet their own
timelines for accountability. Maryland and New Jersey state
officials say they won't start identifying districts until this
summer, and others say they will have to wait even longer while
they gather the necessary resources to help districts in need of
improvement.
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SOURCES:
Education Week, "Some States Slow to List Districts as Falling
Short," April 30, 2003
http://www.edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=33ESEA.h22

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


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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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