Contents of this issue:
  • Philanthropist withdraws $200 million charter offer
  • Former union head charged with conspiracy
  • Some districts may turn down laptop program
  • Head Start reauthorization deadline passes, bill still deadlocked
  • Senate abandons D.C. voucher bill
  • Minnesota teachers to be paid up to $100,000

DETROIT, Mich. — Weeks of bickering and infighting in the state capitol has caused a Detroit philanthropist to withdraw his $200 million offer to build 15 new charter schools in Detroit.

Bob Thompson, founder of the Thompson Foundation, made the announcement last Thursday, even after Attorney General Mike Cox certified the state law allowing the schools to be built, because a veto message from Gov. Granholm wasn't submitted within the allotted time period of 14 days. Cox's ruling immediately touched off threats of a lawsuit to block the legislation and charges that Cox, a Republican, had politicized his office. Democrat Granholm announced she wouldn't recognize the bill as law.

"I am disappointed and saddened by the anger and hostility that has greeted our proposal," said Thompson in a prepared statement. The controversy "has been very distressing to all of us involved in the project with the Thompson Foundation. It has taken a personal toll on my wife and me."

The Thompson Foundation opened a Detroit charter school last month that was to serve as the model for the 15 charters that would have been built in the city.

Detroit News, "Benefactor withdraws $200 million for charters," Oct. 3, 2003

Detroit Free Press, "Statement from Bob Thompson," Oct. 3, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit School Establishment Turns Away $200 million Gift," October 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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Charter Schools Don't Need More Michigan Department of Education 'Oversight,'" August 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The former chief of the Washington Teachers' Union was indicted Friday on allegations of mail fraud and conspiracy resulting in the looting of over $2.5 million from the union's treasury.

The charges specify that, between November 1995 and October 2002, Barbara A. Bullock conspired with her assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill and former union treasurer James O. Baxter to use union money to buy luxury items, artwork and tickets to entertainment events.

Bullock also ordered the District of Columbia to levy a $144 payroll surcharge on each teacher's paycheck — most of which was taken and divided among Bullock, Hemphill, and Baxter. Hemphill and Baxter have not been charged in the case, but the American Federation of Teachers is suing the three for restitution of lost funds.

CNN, "Former teachers' union chief charged in conspiracy," Oct. 6, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Unions: Helping or Hurting?"

DETROIT, Mich. — Some Michigan districts may turn down the state's offer to provide sixth-graders with laptops because of the potential costs for maintenance and upkeep, even though the computers would be sold to districts for $25 per student.

The deal may be too good to be true, said Southfield Public Schools Spokesman Ken Siver. "There is a little bit of resentment here that the state would make the announcement of free laptops that aren't really free." In addition, districts have received no word from the state about how the program should be implemented. "No one can get the full picture," Nancy Sisung, assistant superintendent for Warren Consolidated Schools, told the Detroit News.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she hasn't heard any official complaints from districts. "I've heard people are very excited about it," she said. But because of tight budgets, some districts are in a tough financial position that may prevent them from accepting the offer. Yet, school administrators "... don't want to be the grinch that stole the sixth-graders laptops," Siver said.

Detroit News, "Districts line up in laptop opposition," Oct. 6, 2003

Pioneer Press, "Laptops put to the test," Oct. 5, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Giving Laptops to Sixth Graders Won't Improve Their Education," July 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Democrats and President Bush are in stalemate over a bill to reauthorize the Head Start program.

The official deadline to sign the reauthorization bill into law passed last week, leaving the $6.6 billion program's future in the doubt. The two sides disagree on whether to give some states control of the program and the curriculum.

In July, the House approved the proposal by one vote, only after trimming down the major changes that Bush and several key Republicans had planned. "Some people say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" Wade Horn, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, told the Knight Ridder-Tribune News Service. "The president says, 'If it ain't perfect, make it better.'"

Detroit Free Press, "Controversy clouds future of Head Start," Sept. 30, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hyping the Head Start Program," April 1993

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Re-Hyping the Head Start Program," August 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A possible Democrat filibuster, the war in Iraq, and an 11-day recess forced GOP senators to withdraw their bill requesting $13 million for school choice vouchers in the District of Columbia.

The bill would give eligible children up to $7,500 per year to attend the school of their choice, public or private. District Mayor Anthony Williams and Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, both Democrats, support the program. Proponents of the program say that congressional infighting over the bill is holding children back. Detractors are "saying to the children they're just casualties of the politics of the Senate — tough luck," said Senate education committee chairman Judd Gregg, R- N.H.

Some Democrats said Republicans are to blame for the stalemate because of bill logistics, timing, and widespread opposition to the plan before the bill was introduced. The GOP "... wants to impose [vouchers] on the District," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D- Mass., told the Washington Post.

Washington Post, "Senate Backs Off D.C. School Vouchers," Oct. 1, 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

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The governor of Minnesota wants to pay some teachers up to $100,000 in pilot projects to see if financial incentives help raise student achievement.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who introduced the plan last week, said principals in certain areas would get sweeping powers to hire and fire "super teachers," powers that would operate outside the constraint of union contracts. Then, based upon student performance and achievement, teachers could be paid bonuses of $20,000 to $40,000.

Pawlenty said that Minnesota's achievement gap between black and white students must be reduced in any way possible. "This is a way to demonstrate whether by paying teachers more — in some cases dramatically more — that we can retain the best and the brightest to benefit children. How could you be opposed to that?"

Star Tribune, "Pawlenty pitches paying 'super teachers' up to $100,000," Oct. 2, 2003

Michigan Education Report, "Incentives for Teacher Performance in Government Schools: An Idea Whose Time Has Come," 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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