Contents of this issue:
  • Gov. Granholm vetoes funding for ISD investigation
  • President Bush on road tour to defend "No Child Left Behind"
  • Districts refusing to participate in Schools of Choice hinder reform
  • Minnesota charter schools reach 10,000-student landmark
  • COMMENTARY: Data show Michigan charter schools are successful
  • EDITORIAL: Inflated data hinder education reform
  • Kilpatrick pushes vote on how Detroit schools will be run
  • COMMENTARY: Students' safety more important than privacy

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Jennifer Granholm late last month denied extra funding to the state Attorney General's office to help a state investigation of fraud allegations at several intermediate school districts.

Granholm denied that her decision will hinder the investigation, and that the current state budget does not allow for extra expenditures. "The investigation that the money is requested for is part of the responsibility of the Attorney General's Office," said Liz Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman. "It should be carried out in the normal part of their budget operation. No additional money should be appropriated."

Officials from the office of the Attorney General say they are already spread as thin as possible due to the recent layoff of four attorneys. "You can't expect the Attorney General's Office to investigate and prosecute without the resources," said State Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly. "What this is saying is that it's OK [for ISDs] to take money away from our kids."

Detroit Free Press, "Governor vetoes funds for school investigation," Dec. 24, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003

Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?" Winter 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In response to critical speeches by Democratic Party presidential candidates, President George Bush held a roundtable discussion at a St. Louis elementary school yesterday to defend the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2002.

The president will hold a similar discussion at a Tennessee elementary school this Thursday, the second anniversary of the signing of the bill. Bush and other Republicans say the new law is a success and brings needed reforms to schools around the country. But critics, including this year's Democrat candidates, say not enough money has been appropriated to cover the reforms required by the law.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is among those who think the new mandated are underfunded. "Parents and communities are fighting every day for better schools with high standards for their children, and they expect the federal government to do its part."

USA Today, "President takes to the road to promote education initiative," Jan. 5, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

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

WELDON, N.C. — Federal law under the "No Child Left Behind" Act allows children in failing schools to transfer to schools in adjacent districts at no charge to them. But entrenched local opposition to school choice is hindering the reform.

The Detroit News highlighted one example, in which the parent of two daughters that attend a school deemed "failing" under the Act attempted to transfer his children to an adjacent, well-performing district under the "No Child Left Behind" rules. However, the adjacent district refused admittance to the children, saying the move would "create an administrative nightmare," according to Roanoke Rapids school Superintendent John Parker.

The adjacent districts have forever been at odds due to racial segregation, and neither wants to participate in the Schools of Choice program mandated by the new federal law. "It's a bit too late for No Child Left Behind," former teacher Helen Brown said of the children in failing schools. "These kids have already been left behind."

Detroit News, "Resistance derails schools of choice," Dec. 24, 2003

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

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

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — After 10 years of charter school success, the state of Minnesota has announced that its charters now educate over 10,000 students, a landmark number that may double in half that time.

In addition to the record number of charter students, the state education department has approved, for the second year in a row, a record number of charter schools to be opened. Minnesota's total next fall will be over 100 schools with an enrollment of 15,000, compared to 840,000 students enrolled in traditional education programs.

Public school advocacy groups do not support the charter school movement, but public appreciation and confidence in the schools has been gaining since the first school opened in the state 10 years ago. "They are realizing that the charter school movement is here to stay and that it's not going away," said Patty Brostrom, president of Minnesota's statewide charter school group and deputy superintendent of Minnesota Transitions Charter School.

Pioneer Press, "EDUCATION: Charter schools mark a record," Dec. 29, 2003 7587282.htm

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

DETROIT, Mich. — A Sunday commentary published in the Detroit News says that Michigan's charter schools not only perform well but also enhance the students' ability to learn.

The article's author, Daniel Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, told of teacher Kim Nelson and her efforts to help students learn; efforts that won for Nelson the title of 2003 Michigan charter school Teacher of the Year. "She portrays the heart and soul of Michigan's charter public schools — why they were created, what they strive to do and why parents flock to them," writes Quisenberry. Even though charter schools are attacked by many who are intimidated by change, says Quisenberry, "The truth is that these often-small schools are creating the environments and offering the programs that do, indeed, foster academic and personal success." Quisenberry pointed out that in the past year charters showed greater gains in improvement of student achievement than traditional schools.

Detroit News, "Michigan charter schools successful," Jan. 4, 2004

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

DETROIT, Mich. — A Detroit News editorial last week scolded Michigan and other states for over-reporting state graduation rates to federal agencies.

According to the paper's editors, the practice is not only dishonest, but it "does neither the educators nor students any good to pretend that students have graduated when they haven't." Kevin Carey, an analyst for the Education Trust, was quoted as saying, "Many states are severely underreporting the number of students who are not successfully graduating from high school, and this undermines their ability to address the problem."

According to the News, the state of Michigan reported a graduation rate of 86 percent, while the actual rate was closer to 73 percent. Even an 86 percent graduation rate is dismal, says the News, because nearly 15 percent of high school students are still not educated enough to enter the workforce, hindering Michigan's economy. "If 15 or 25 percent of Michigan's students aren't getting a diploma, the state risks losing one of its important pitches to new business — that it has an educated work force," wrote the News.

Detroit News, "Honest Data Remains the Key to Reforming Public Education," Dec. 29, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence," January 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000

DETROIT, Mich. — Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will campaign this week for a March 16 election date to change or end state-mandated reforms instated in 1999 by former Gov. John Engler.

The election would allow Detroit residents to determine whether the school district should revert to a normal, elected school board or create a system where the city's mayor is allowed to hire and fire the school system's chief executive officer.

The proposal is stuck in Lansing because many legislators do not support Kilpatrick's plan to give the mayor such broad power, and would allow the district's management to be altered at will.

"That's what sends kids to another district," Carol Summers, president of the Detroit Council PTA-PTSA, told the Detroit News. "(Parents) would rather not be bothered."

Detroit News, "Kilpatrick pushes school vote," Dec. 29, 2003

Michigan Education Report, "Compromise Gives Archer Control of Detroit Schools," Spring 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. — America's legal system has developed a concept of "students' rights" that is doing damage to the overall safety and efficacy of U.S. schools, writes Richard Arum in a Washington Post op-ed.

The maze of laws and bureaucracy in the U.S. legal system is to blame for "increased disorder and violence in our schools," writes Arum. "The courts have created a complex set of requirements, including increased reporting, that have made well-meaning teachers and administrators reluctant to respond to and control student violence and misbehavior in ways the public would support."

Because of increased efforts by trial lawyers to expand "students' rights," it is impossible to reprimand dangerous students or protect those in danger due to fear of litigation. To resolve the problem, "Courts should consider strictly limiting due process protections solely to cases involving major penalties or students' First Amendment rights."

Washington Post, "For Their Own Good: Limit Students' Rights," Dec. 29, 2003

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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