MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 21
May 27, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/


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Contents of this issue:
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* Study claims poor and minorities have limited access to school
   choice
* Parents upset over vote to end Louisiana school vouchers
   program
* First Lady asks schools to keep educational programs
* Supreme Court to decide on public funding for religious
   education
* Researchers challenge validity of study finding after-school
   programs of little help to students
* Michigan Merit Award criteria questioned

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STUDY CLAIMS POOR AND MINORITIES HAVE LIMITED ACCESS TO SCHOOL
CHOICE
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BOSTON, Mass. – Students from low-income and/or minority families
have fewer chances than others to take advantage of school choice
options such as charter schools and intra-district choice in the
state of Massachusetts, according to a new study by the
Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (Mass-INC), a
non-profit think tank located in Boston.

Although the state of Massachusetts has no voucher or tuition tax
credit program that might provide a doorway for large numbers of
low-income and minority students, the study found that such
students are underrepresented in Boston's choice programs. The
programs examined include private schools, charter schools,
vocational schools and a voluntary desegregation program that
primarily sends children from Boston to the suburbs.

"For many students, their ability to exercise school choice
remains an accident of birth and is determined by family income
and zip code," states the report. "As a result, not all students
are benefiting equally from the substantial availability of
school choice."

_______
SOURCES:
Boston Globe, "School choice often eludes poor and minorities,
study finds," May 21, 2003
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/141/metro/School_choice_often_eludes_poor_and_minorities_study_finds+.shtml

Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, "Mapping School
Choice in Massachusetts," May 2003
http://www.massinc.org/handler.cfm?type=2&target=School_Choice/index.html

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


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PARENTS UPSET OVER VOTE NOT TO EXPAND LOUISIANA SCHOOL VOUCHER
PROGRAM
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NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Louisiana Legislature voted this month to
halt the expansion of a preschool-only school voucher program,
compelling many of the 1,200 voucher students to attend
neighborhood public schools instead.

Parents had hoped the voucher program, which uses federal welfare
money to send preschoolers to non-public schools, would be
extended up to the third grade so their children could continue
to attend school using vouchers past their preschool year.

Many parents affected by the vote called the public schools
"failing," and fear their children will receive substandard
education. Some voucher proponents have not given up yet,
however; Kirby Ducote, a lobbyist for the Archdiocese of New
Orleans, is attempting to attach the extension to legislation
that doesn't expire until late June. "It's not over 'til it's
over," he said.
_______
SOURCES:
Times-Picayune, "Parents lament end of vouchers," May 21, 2003
http://www.nolalive.com/news/t-p/neworleans/index.ssf?/base/news-0/105349841043550.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax
Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education,"
November 1997
http://www.mackinac.org/362


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FIRST LADY ASKS SCHOOLS TO KEEP EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS
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BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Speaking at a Colorado education seminar,
first lady Laura Bush said she hopes schools that are looking for
ways to cut costs will not cut programs that encourage student
achievement.

In addition, Mrs. Bush reminded schools not to reduce or remove
student testing that is now required by federal law. "If we don't
test, how do we know if our teaching methods are effective?" she
asked.

The first lady also asked business and community leaders to help
financially strapped schools by helping to fund school programs.
"They can't step in and fund all school programs, but they can
help." But she said that when cuts must be made, she hopes they
will be made "... on the side of instruction and not just [on] what
is good for teachers or parents."
_______
SOURCES:
Denver Post, "First lady urges schools to save key programs,"
May 22, 2003
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~1407138,00.html

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


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SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court announced last week that it
will decide on a case involving the question of whether
government money can be used to fund religious education at both
public and private institutions.

The case, which experts say will determine the future of programs
like school vouchers, was brought against the state of Washington
because it revoked a college grant for a student majoring in
theology. Washington and 14 other states have bans on spending
for theology classes.

A Supreme Court decision last year, however, found that states
can institute voucher programs that give public money to students
attending religious schools, so long as students are given
choices of religious and secular schools.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found 2-1
that the state of Washington was wrong in withholding the
scholarship money. The Supreme Court will hear the state's appeal
of that decision in October.
________
SOURCE:
Detroit News, "Supreme Court to say when states can fund
religious education," May 19, 2003
http://www.detnews.com/2003/schools/0305/27/religion-168122.htm


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RESEARCHERS CHALLENGE VALIDITY OF STUDY FINDING AFTER-SCHOOL
PROGRAMS OF LITTLE HELP TO STUDENTS
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PRINCETON, N.J. – Some members of a research team that produced a
February study downplaying the importance of after-school
programs in education have called into question the report's
validity.

The primary investigators of the report, Mark Dynarski and Mary
Moore, stand behind the study. Researchers had sufficient time to
raise concerns before the report was published, saying that the
move feels "political" because it coincided with President Bush's
announcement that he will cut 40 percent of the federal after-
school program budget.

The report, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and
published by the U.S. Department of Education, found that
federally-funded after-school programs show little sign of
improving students academically and socially, but "made no
recommendation about funding levels for the program," said
Dynarski and Moore.

Study researchers that signed the statement disputing the study's
findings say that statistical techniques were flawed and notes
the small sample size the study used to determine its
conclusions.
_______
SOURCES:
Education Week, "After-School Report Called Into Question,"
May 21, 2003
http://www.edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=37century.h22

Mathematica Policy Research, "When Schools Stay Open Late: The
National Evaluation of the 21st-Century Community Learning
Centers Program," February 2003
http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/PDFs/whenschools.pdf


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MICHIGAN MERIT AWARD CRITERIA QUESTIONED
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LASNING, Mich. – Some state officials are calling into question
the unequal distribution of the Michigan Merit Award, saying that
the program would better serve students if it were based on need
rather than on merit.

The scholarship, which ranges from $1,000 to $2,500, is given to
students that obtain satisfactory scores on the high school
Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. Gov.
Jennifer Granholm has already introduced a plan to reduce the
award to $500 to save state money.

But some lawmakers say graduates of high schools in more well-to-
do areas are receiving twice the amount of MEAP scholarship money
as their counterparts in the poorest districts -- outpacing them
by as much as $1.9 million.

Others argue the scholarships are the ticket to a better life for
many students, who deserve recognition for their good marks.
________
SOURCES:
Grand Rapids Press, "Merit or need? MEAP award criteria debated,"
May 22, 2003
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news-0/1053616789277960.xml

Michigan Education Report, "College bound students receive new
state scholarships," Early Fall 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/3058


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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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