Contents of this issue:
  • State says school funding will be cut $350 million statewide
  • Home schooling on the rise
  • Kent County teachers may stage walkout
  • Alleged sex scandals rattle Southgate Community Schools
  • For-profit charter managers producing dismal results
  • To save money, some schools choose four-day week

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's state government Thursday warned school districts throughout the state that unless some other funding mechanism is discovered within 30 days, school funding will be cut by $196 per student. This is equivalent to cuts of $350 million statewide, and includes cuts of $135 million for schools in Metro Detroit.

State Budget Director Mary Lannoye sent a letter to school districts saying that a $349.6 million shortfall in the $12.5 billion School Aid Fund would force the state to begin the new round of budget cuts with school payments due Dec. 20.

"I'm required by state law to order cuts," Gov. Jennifer Granholm told a Macomb County audience on Thursday. "That's exactly what we didn't want to do."

Detroit Public Schools, the state's largest school district with 157,000 students, stands to lose $30 million. Add that to declining enrollment and sagging property tax revenue, and the district's shortfall balloons to $50 million, Robert Moore, senior deputy CEO for Detroit schools, told the Detroit News.

Detroit News, "Schools face $350 million in cuts," Nov. 7, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Pros and Cons of Zero-based Budgeting," November 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," December 2002

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Families frustrated with traditional schools are increasingly turning to home schooling to meet the needs of their children.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, at least 850,000 children are home schooled nationwide, from 360,000 ten years ago.

"I was always too afraid to take that giant step outside the mainstream," Penny Kjellberg, who began home schooling her children two years ago, told the New York Times. "Now that circumstances have forced us out, our experience here on the sidelines is so good that I find it harder and harder to imagine going back," she added.

Experts say that home schooling is fast becoming a viable option for many families fed up with the current system, especially for children with special needs, whether gifted or learning disabled. Newcomers to home schooling resist easy classification as part of the religious right or freewheeling left, who dominated the movement for decades, according to those who study the practice.

New York Times, "Unhappy in Class, More Are Learning at Home," Nov. 10, 2003

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

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Fighting over health-care clauses in current contract negotiations may spark a countywide walkout of teachers and support staff in several Kent County school districts.

The move is termed a "sympathy strike," and would involve a walkout by 7,400 teachers and staff at various schools, who would be showing solidarity with the staffs of the Kentwood, Kenowa Hills, Lowell, and Rockford districts, which may strike due to contact disagreements.

Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan and are now rare due to sanctions against strikers added to anti-strike laws in 1994.

Strikers face lost wages and fines equaling a day's pay for each day they strike. They would be reimbursed through the Michigan Education Association's crisis fund.

The Grand Rapids Press says unions in non-bargaining districts are paying close attention because they fear if one union starts paying part of the health-insurance premium, eventually the whole county will follow.

Grand Rapids Press, "Kent teachers consider countywide walkout," Nov. 9, 2003 1068376719243180.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Analyst Says: Close Teacher Strike Loophole That Allowed Anti-Charter School Protest," October 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA: Keeping School Districts From Saving Money on Health Care," November 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," November 1993

SOUTHGATE, Mich. — Two alleged sex scandals have rattled Southgate Community Schools and forced a police investigation into the matters.

The separate incidents include the alleged rape of a female student by a Junior ROTC instructor and the alleged rape of a female soccer player by a physical education teacher. The latter suspect has been formally charged by Southgate police.

The Southgate school board met last Wednesday in closed session to deliberate the matter and determine the fate of the teachers. "I don't know what's going to happen," Superintendent Dave Peden told the Detroit Free Press. "We are concerned."

Detroit Free Press, "Sex cases a concern for Southgate school board," Nov. 6, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Access to Teacher Records Should Be Restricted, Say Unions," Jan. 18, 1999

DETROIT, Mich. — A Detroit News analysis reports that Michigan's largest for-profit charter school management companies are not producing academic results comparable to even the most troubled traditional public schools in Michigan.

According to the report, schools run by three of the largest charter managers "often fall far below minimum standards in reading, writing, and math," lagging behind even such faltering districts as Flint and Grand Rapids. Three quarters of Michigan's charter schools are run by for-profit management firms, making the state "one of the nation's biggest venues for private control of public education," the report stated.

The report cited minimal scrutiny of the way management companies use over $123.7 million in public tax funding each year.

Proponents of market-based education reform tout the competition spurred by charter schools and the efficiency of for-profit management as positive influences on the bureaucracy of government schools. However, the News report cited problems in the for-profit charters similar to those leveled by critics at traditional public schools, including the inability to replace poorly performing administrators and an overall climate lacking oversight.

Detroit News, "Substandard charters fail 17,000 state pupils," Oct. 26, 2003

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

DIXON, Ky. — The Webster County school district is the first district in Kentucky to switch to a four-day week in an effort to save money.

The move, which affects 1,900 students, will save about $200,000, or 2 percent of the district's annual budget. State guidelines require that students attend a certain amount of school each year, so the district extended the school day by 30 minutes on the remaining four days. "It's the easiest way to cut to get a quick result fast, to get more money," said Linda Embrey, spokeswoman for the National School Boards Association.

According to a 2002 report by the Association, select schools in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming have switched to a four-day week to save money.

CNN, "Cash-strapped schools going to four-day week," Nov. 7, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," December 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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