MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST
Volume V, No. 26
July 1, 2003
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/med/


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Contents of this issue:
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* Michigan House to take up charter school bill
* Disabled students bill receives U.S. Senate committee approval
* Legal obstacles, budgets slow spread of tuition vouchers
* Commentary: Dropout rates deceiving
* Washington, D.C. schools threaten to fire employees who misuse
   credit cards
* California charters on par with traditional schools
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MICHIGAN HOUSE TO TAKE UP CHARTER SCHOOL BILL
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LANSING, Mich. – A bill to increase the cap on the number of
charter schools in the state is headed to the House after being
approved by the Senate last month.

The bill would allow up to 350 university-sponsored charter
schools by 2012, including the current 150 allowed by state law.
In addition, the legislation would require charters to make more
operating information public, such as its membership, financial
standing, teacher salaries, and health and safety.

Opponents of the measure want to close a loophole that allows Bay
Mills Community College, a federal tribal college in Brimley in
the Upper Peninsula, to sponsor any charter school in the state.
The school has a statewide attendance area. The Senate bill puts
Bay Mills under the same restrictions as universities.

Michigan already has 189 charter schools, but has a cap of 150 on
the number of charters that can be sponsored by universities.
That cap was reached in 1999.

The House passed a stronger charter bill earlier this year that
would have added up to 300 new charters, but that bill never made
it through the Senate. Charter supporters say that any more
concessions that dilute the new bill would kill it in the House.

"We're not uncomfortable walking away from a bad deal. There is
an issue of sound policy here that we want to keep in mind," said
Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public
School Academies.
_______
SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Charter schools issue set to heat up,"
June 30, 2003
http://www.freep.com/news/education/chart30_20030630.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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DISABLED STUDENTS BILL RECEIVES U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVAL
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions last week unanimously approved
legislation to reauthorize the Individuals With Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA), which provides federal funding for
educational services to disabled students.

Just how much funding was a question left unanswered.
Republicans and Democrats alike say they embrace the goal of
fully financing special education by 2009, but Republicans say
they would like the federal contribution to be discretionary
while the Democrats contend it should be mandatory.

Under the new law, schools would have to determine if a student's
misbehavior is linked to his disability before punishing him.
Supporters of the Senate bill largely criticized a similar House
bill for punishing disabled students too harshly for behavior
they cannot easily control.
_______
SOURCES:
New York Times, "Senate Panel Approves Bill for Students With
Disabilities," June 25, 2003
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/26/national/26EDUC.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Refocus Special
Education on Reading Achievement," February 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/5000


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LEGAL OBSTACLES, BUDGETS SLOW SPREAD OF TUITION VOUCHERS
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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Colorado is the only state to have instituted a
tuition voucher program since the Supreme Court approved of the
practice last year.

Advocates say legal obstacles and tight budgets around the
country have stalled the expansion of tuition vouchers to help
students attend the school of their choice. Arizona, Louisiana
and Texas all have introduced voucher measures that failed to
catch on as they have in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida.

Opponents of vouchers say the programs would bankrupt public
schools by sending public money to private schools. But voucher
supporters say the programs not only produce higher-achieving
students, but provide needed competition for public schools. "The
needs of the students are being addressed in ways that they were
not being addressed in their previous schools," Frances Marine,
spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, told CNN.
_______
SOURCES:
CNN, "Growth of vouchers slow year after court decision,"
June 28, 2003
http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/06/28/school.vouchers.ap/index.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Mackinac Center for Public
Policy Poll Conducted by EPIC/MRA," June 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4435

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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COMMENTARY: DROPOUT RATES DECEIVING
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Los Angeles Unified School District's
dropout rates are deceivingly low, says columnist Howard Blume, a
writer for L.A. Weekly, writing in the Los Angeles Times.

The district's official dropout rate is 5.7 percent, but that
number is incorrect, claims Blume. To obtain the real figures,
Blume says, multiply that percentage by four, "to account for
four years of dropouts from each class during the years of high
school." The actual dropout rate would turn out to be about 23
percent.

"Someone's lying, it's just that simple. Or someone's
underreporting – I guess that's a better way of saying it," Marco
Orlando, a California state education official, told the Times.
This underreporting occurs "because it's a bad reflection on
public schools," he said.
________
SOURCES:
Los Angeles Times, "Numbers Game," June 29, 2003
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-blume29jun29192423,1,7186059.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions


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WASHINGTON, D.C. SCHOOLS THREATEN TO FIRE EMPLOYEES WHO MISUSE
CREDIT CARDS
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia public school officials
are threatening to fire employees who misuse district-issued
credit cards after city auditors discovered a rash of improper
expenditures.

More than $1.6 million in district credit card charges was
unaccounted for in fiscal year 2001, one quarter of the
district's credit card expenditures that year. District officials
"will discipline the guilty party – up to and including
termination - and recover misspent funds," said Barrington
Salmon, a spokesman for the D.C. schools.

The credit cards were used to pay for such items as DVD players,
televisions, $11,500 in gifts, and rental cars. In addition, the
district paid $112,415 in late fees on the cards. "It is no
secret that the schools' financial systems are dysfunctional, so
much so that last year they didn't know who they were paying or
who worked for them," said City Council member Kevin P. Chavous.
_______
SOURCES:
Washington Times, "Firing threat made at schools," June 26, 2003
http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20030625-093700-7737r.htm

Michigan Education Report, "Financial scandals exposed in
Michigan school districts," Fall 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4835


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CALIFORNIA CHARTERS ON PAR WITH TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A study commissioned by the California
Legislative Analyst's Office shows that California's charter
schools perform at the same achievement levels as traditional
public schools, despite lower funding and fewer certified
teachers.

The study, performed by the RAND Corporation, was performed in
response to questions from University of California and Stanford
University researchers about whether the relative inexperience of
charter school teachers was hurting the education of charter
school students.

Researchers adjusted standardized test scores to account for the
low performance rates of students entering charter programs,
allowing the study to compare charter students with traditional
public school students. "When you look at the scores, they're so
close, so comparable," Ron Zimmer, an economist for RAND, told
the New York Times.
________
SOURCES:
New York Times, "California Charter Schools Rated as Equal to
Public Ones in Study," July 1, 2003
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/01/national/01CALI.html

Michigan Education Report, "Charter schools get good marks,"
Winter 2001
http://www.educationreport.org/3219

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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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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