Contents of this issue:
  • Troubled Michigan schools give themselves A's to avoid "restructuring" under federal law
  • Oakland Intermediate district faces numerous charges
  • Bush proposes increase in spending on education
  • Former union official sentenced for embezzling
  • Hamtramck school chief dismissed
  • Court agrees to hear dismissal argument in think tank suit

TROUBLED MICHIGAN SCHOOLS GIVE THEMSELVES A'S TO AVOID "RESTRUCTURING" UNDER FEDERAL LAW
DETROIT, Mich. — More than three-fourths of Michigan's chronically failing schools gave themselves A's — which counted for one-third of each school's grades, recently released to the public — to avoid the restructuring called for in the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act.

And even this grade inflation failed to avert the restructuring requirement for 896 Michigan schools. The federal law requires schools that consistently fall short of the law's educational standards to reorganize their administrative structure.

School scores are based on student scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests administered annually. If students do not consistently meet set performance standards, a school is required to reorganize in at least one of several ways: turn into a charter school, be taken over by a private management company or relinquish its power to the state, among other options.

SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Schools give selves A's, avert failure," Feb. 3, 2004
http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0402/03/a01e-54394.htm

Detroit Free Press, "State report cards show 71 metro schools must restructure," Jan. 31, 2004
http://www.freep.com/news/education/card31_20040131.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Making the Grade," January 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6113


OAKLAND INTERMEDIATE DISTRICT FACES NUMEROUS CHARGES
WATERFORD, Mich. — A detailed audit outlining several cases of misspending in the Oakland Intermediate School District has sparked numerous calls for further inquiry into the district's past expenditures and the organization itself.

The Farmington Public Education Network (F-PEN), a parents' advocacy organization based in Farmington, Mich., called on Gov. Jennifer Granholm to begin a state investigation into the causes of fiscal abuse by the district. "There has been a tremendous lack of accountability at the ISD and the local school board level," Dan Cohen, cochairman of F-PEN, told the Detroit Free Press.

The Oakland Intermediate district is accused of both misspending money on items such as lavish travel arrangements and pushing for a $66 million bond issue while it still retained millions in its reserve funds. "I don't think there is any question that there is a loss of confidence" in ISDs, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema said. "With the budget challenges we're facing, it is certainly time for us to look at this, given all these revelations."

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "District had millions, got voters to OK more," Jan. 30, 2004
http://www.freep.com/news/education/ois30_20040130.htm

Detroit Free Press, "OAKLAND SCHOOLS SPENDING: Cozy deals fell short of district goals," Jan. 30, 2004
http://www.freep.com/news/education/bids30_20040130.htm

Detroit Free Press, "Parents call for complete inquiry," Jan. 30, 2004
http://www.freep.com/news/education/folo30_20040130.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/5678

Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?" Winter 2000
http://www.educationreport.org/2709


BUSH PROPOSES INCREASE IN SPENDING ON EDUCATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal budget proposal released this week by President Bush requests an increase in education spending, his biggest request for spending this year not pertaining to national security.

The proposal, which will be presented to Congress for debate, suggests cuts for numerous federal programs. But in education, the president is calling for increased funding for the "No Child Left Behind" Act, Title I, block grants, special education and Pell grants for college students, which brings the total federal education budget to $57.3 billion.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said the 36 percent increase in his department's budget since 2001, the largest of any agency, reflected Mr. Bush's commitment to education.

SOURCES:
New York Times, "Domestic Spending: Gains for Education but Not Much Else," Feb. 3, 2004
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/03/politics/03DOME.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Money and Red Tape," January 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6094


FORMER UNION OFFICIAL SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLING
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The former president of the Washington Teachers' Union was sentenced to prison last week for her participation in a scheme that embezzled millions of dollars from the union during her tenure.

Barbara A. Bullock, 65, who faced charges of conspiracy and mail fraud, was sentenced to nine years in prison plus three years in a halfway house and 3,000 hours of community service for the scheme. In addition, Bullock must return $4.6 million and luxury items such as fur coats, artwork and electronics to the union. Prosecutors called the scheme, which involved three other people, "nothing short of brazen greed."

Bullock pleaded guilty to the charges last fall, and asked forgiveness at her sentencing last Friday. "I stand before you a broken and changed person," she said. "When I think about what happened — and I've had a year to do it — I would change things." Prosecutors said the embezzling took place when Bullock was president of the union from 1994 to 2000 and was undiscovered until an audit by the American Federation of Teachers in July 2002.

SOURCES:
Associated Press, "Teachers Union Chief Sentenced in Scandal," Jan. 30, 2004
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64479-2004Jan30.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Unions: Helping or Hurting?"
http://www.mackinac.org/9399


HAMTRAMCK SCHOOL CHIEF DISMISSED
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. — The Hamtramck School Board last week formally dismissed superintendent Paul Stamatakis after discovering thousands of dollars misspent on construction projects that Stamatakis approved.

The board suspended Stamatakis two weeks ago with pay while investigating the charges. "I hope this puts an end to this," Board President Camille Colatosti told the Detroit News. "We've struggled with the issue of wrongful spending for a long time, and now it's time for us to get our house in order, straighten out our books and straighten out our schools."

An audit by former Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor George Ward found $1 million in cost overruns and incomplete and shoddy work. After its decision to dismiss Stamatakis, the board named retired Davenport University Vice President Janet Guggenheim as interim superintendent.

SOURCE:
Detroit News, "Hamtramck board ousts schools chief," Jan. 27, 2004
http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0401/28/c08-47314.htm


COURT TO HEAR DISMISSAL ARGUMENT IN MEA'S FREE-SPEECH SUIT
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's Court of Appeals will hear arguments on Feb. 5 to dismiss a lawsuit filed in 2002 by the Michigan Education Association against a Michigan policy research institute.

The union, the state's largest, filed the lawsuit against the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank, because the Mackinac Center quoted, in one of its fundraising newsletters, MEA president Luigi Battaglieri saying at an open press conference that "Frankly, I admire what they [the Mackinac Center] have done." The MEA alleged that this use was "a misappropriation of Battaglieri's likeness."

After a lower court decided the case should go to trial, the Mackinac Center filed a motion to dismiss with the Court of Appeals.

MEA spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley claims the use of Battaglieri's quote is not an issue of free speech because it was used in a fundraising letter. "We believe they improperly used our president's name and likeness and the MEA's name and likeness," she said.

Mackinac Center Executive Vice President Joseph Lehman said, "Of course you can quote what someone says at his own news conference. Nothing the MEA does now changes the fact that its president told a room full of reporters that he admires what the Mackinac Center has done."

The Mackinac Center is the publisher of Michigan Education Report and Michigan Education Digest.

SOURCES:
MLive.com, "Court schedules arguments in Mackinac Center appeal to dismiss MEA suit," Jan. 28, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/newsflash/michigan/index.ssf?/base/news-11/ 1075329543104591.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Union President Praises Institute, Then Files 'Don't Quote Me' Lawsuit," Jan. 30, 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6150

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Association Sues Mackinac Center for Public Policy for Quoting the Union's President," January 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/4356


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
med@educationreport.org.

To subscribe, go to:
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/#subscribe.

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