Contents of this issue:
  • Granholm rejects charter bill
  • Too many schools left off 'dangerous' list, say critics
  • Proposed D.C. voucher system worries private schools
  • Voucher support crosses party lines
  • Homeschoolers make National Merit list
  • Public schools failing minorities, says Education Secretary

LANSING, Mich. — A plan expected to expand the charter school presence in Detroit fell apart last Wednesday after Gov. Jennifer Granholm ceased negotiations with key Republicans.

Granholm said that the proposed bill did not fulfill earlier agreements between her and lawmakers. Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the governor objected to what she called "a loophole" that would allow the establishment of charters beyond the agreed-upon 150. Republicans countered that the draft bill was offered to Granholm for her review and changes, but that she used it to quash the deal that was in the making.

"It's unfortunate that the governor has chosen to play politics on something that, as early as last week, she was ready to announce an agreement on," Bill Nowling, spokesman for Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, told the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit school officials cancelled classes last Thursday because thousands of teachers in that district said they would rally against the charter bill proposed to the Governor and miss school.

Detroit Free Press, "Granholm: Deal on charters is off," Sept. 25, 2003

Detroit Free Press, "FUTURE OF DETROIT SCHOOLS: Charter rift with GOP tests Granholm," Sept. 26, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Most states set the threshold that determines what constitutes a dangerous school too high, leaving out schools that are truly dangerous to students, say some critics of a list of such schools.

The "No Child Left Behind Act" of 2002 requires that states report dangerous schools to the federal government and allow students at those schools to transfer elsewhere if they feel endangered. Forty-four states have not defined any of their schools as dangerous, but "we know significant crime and violence continue in many schools around the country," said Dr. Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center.

For instance, in Colorado, a school of 1,000 students could have 179 homicides per year and still remain off the dangerous schools list. In Ohio, the list was regarded as a joke, said Richard A. DeColibus, president of the Cleveland Teachers' Union. "State education officials just wanted to protect the reputations of their schools, so they said, 'We'll write the regulations so that no school could ever be considered dangerous.'"

New York Times, "Threshold for Dangerous Schools Under New Law Is Too High, Critics Say," Sept. 28, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling," Jan. 2001

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some private school leaders in Washington, D.C. are worried that the proposed federal voucher program for District students will hinder their administration and autonomy in matters of hiring, admissions, testing and curriculum.

Maret School head Marjo Talbott said that federal money always comes with regulations that would compromise a private school's ability to make its own decisions. Georgetown Day School head Peter Branch agreed."...There is no question that if they attach onerous requirements that threaten the independence of independent schools, schools will either not participate or drop out," he said. "I'm not interested in who I hire, what we teach, how we teach it, or how we assess our success to be dictated to us."

Others, however, are optimistic about changes that may affect schools. "We can work out any issue they want us to," Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, told the Washington Post.

Washington Post, "Private Schools Leery of Voucher Trade-Offs," Sept. 28, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 19, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The plan to give some Washington, D.C. students vouchers to attend private schools is backed by both Democrats and Republicans, breaking the traditional political divide in most voucher debates.

The Senate plan would allow $7,500 to each student per year to attend the school of their choice. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. and District Mayor Anthony Williams, also a Democrat, support the bill. "I've gotten a lot of flak because I'm supporting it," said Feinstein. "But guess what? I don't care. I've spent the time.

I've gone to the schools. I see what works. I see what doesn't work."

Most Democrats are still opposed to the idea of vouchers.

According to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Feinstein "has identified problems, but she hasn't identified the solutions — not good solutions."

Los Angeles Times, "Vouchers Find Favor Outside GOP," Sept. 26, 2003,1,6393981.story?coll=la-news-learning

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 19, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

CHICAGO, Ill. — The number of home-schooled National Merit award recipients has greatly increased over the last several years, making the group a formidable opponent to traditional students vying for the same awards.

In the National Merit Semifinals, the number of home-schooled students has risen 180 percent since 1997, from 100 to 266. The number of homeschoolers that received National Merit Scholarships (the program's top prize) has increased 500 percent, from 21 to 129 since 1995.

The National Home Education Research Institute reports that homeschoolers' standardized test scores are consistently above the national average. "I knew my abilities already, but it's nice for people who think home schooling won't work," Sarah Bramson, a home schooled Illinois senior and National Merit semifinalist, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Sun-Times, "Home-schooled students shine in National Merit list," Sept. 29, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Home Schoolers Make Case for School Choice," May 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The education chief of the federal government said Wednesday that public schools are failing minority students on a level great enough to be called apartheid.

Using statistics of the performance of minorities in schools, Education Secretary Rod Paige showed that the current establishment is not achieving its job to educate all students.

Because most failing students are poor, "effectively, the education circumstances for these students are not unlike a system of apartheid," Paige said.

Paige said that current laws should be enough to turn around scores, but they are being hindered by "significant, powerful forces entrenched in the old ways, mired in self interest."

Boston Globe, "Education chief says schools failing minorities," Sept. 25, 2003

Michigan Education Report, "Privately managed public school academy raises achievement for minority students," Spring 2002

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at

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