Contents of this issue:
  • Granholm pushes for teacher professional development days
  • Rising health care costs impact school budgets
  • Changes to Title IX would allow easier access to same-sex classes
  • Report calls for changes in high school test
  • Failing schools must meet fast-approaching deadline
  • Governor's funding plan would leave net deficit per student

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Jennifer Granholm says giving teachers time off for "professional development" is not a waste of time - but that the time teachers do take off should be spent gaining skills that will help students meet federal standards under the "No Child Left Behind" Act.

Currently, schools can send teachers to seminars and training sessions for a large variety of professional development purposes. Granholm's proposed change would allow development hours - 51 per year - solely for academic training.

The proposal will be part of Gov. Granholm's budget plan, which must be approved by the Legislature. If the plan is enacted, the state Department of Education would set specific requirements for the types of training allowed teachers during professional development days.

Detroit Free Press, "Granholm proposes changes at schools," Mar. 3, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Frivolous, Trendy Teacher Training in Michigan," May 5, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A survey of school business officials around the country found that the rising cost of health care is the most pressing financial issue in schools.

Survey participants said the increase in payments to employee health care takes money from necessary school functions such as maintenance and technology upgrades, directly affecting the ability to properly educate students.

Over half of survey participants said their district's health care expenditures have risen over 21 percent in the last three years; 17 percent said costs have risen more than 40 percent.

Education Week, "Health Costs Strain School Budgets," Mar. 3, 2004 Free registration required.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Why School Districts Can't Save on Health Care," January 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MEA Abuses Public School Health Care Funds," Aug. 7, 2001

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

Michigan Privatization Report, "Ensuring Insurance Competition," September 1998

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Department of Education officials last Wednesday announced plans to alter enforcement of the Title IX anti-discrimination law to allow easier creation of single-gender classrooms in public schools.

Currently, only 91 public schools nationwide offer single-gender classes. Existing Department of Education regulations currently allow single-gender classes only under special circumstances, such as gym classes with contact sports. The planned changes would allow schools to provide same-sex classes as an option alongside comparable co-ed classes. In addition, rules for creating entire single-sex schools would be relaxed.

Opponents of the plans say that single-gender classes bypass the equality safeguards of Title IX and that little research exists on the positive aspects of same-sex classes and schools. Those in favor of the new policy say the changes would allow greater options for students and their parents in choosing the best possible education.

Detroit Free Press, "Girls, boys may soon be able to learn separately," Mar. 4, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A commission created last year to analyze the effectiveness of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) last Friday called for an overhaul of the portion of the test administered to high school seniors.

The NAEP, also known as the Nation's Report Card, collects and publishes data of student performance nationwide by testing a sample of students. Currently, said the commission's report, the 12th grade section tests what students know but provides no gauge as to students' readiness for college, work or the military.

One recommendation suggests that an incentive be provided to students asked to participate in the test to reduce student apathy and increase the sample base, which recently has shrunk to a nearly unusable percentage of the national student population.

"One of the challenges [the test] has had to contend with is getting parents and students to take it seriously, because no individual students get results," Michael Nettles, commission co- chairman and senior research director at the Educational Testing Service told the Associated Press.

CNN, "Report: 12th-grade test needs overhaul," Mar. 5, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "With Clear Eyes, Sincere Hearts and Open Minds," July 2002

DETROIT, Mich. - Under the "No Child Left Behind" Act, schools judged to be chronically failing must provide comprehensive reform plans to the federal government by the following September.

Michigan has over 100 chronically failing schools, and the state Department of Education must oversee and complete reform plans for each by the September deadline. State officials say they will most likely file for an extension of that deadline because district progress reports were released six months late this year. The deadline is "unrealistic," said Ken Siver, spokesman for the Southfield school district, which governs a school slated for mandatory reform. "It will be too rushed. These things don't happen overnight."

Reform options for chronically failing schools include everything from replacing administrators and teachers to reopening as a charter school, depending on the severity of student failure.

Detroit News, "Failing schools face tight deadline," Mar. 5, 2004

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

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Jennifer Granholm's budget proposal contains a provision for restoring a $74 per student funding cut that passed in December, raising the per-student minimum foundation allowance to $6,700.

But her plan also requires school districts to shell out an additional $108 per student on average to pay for mandated retirement contributions. That's a net loss of $34 per pupil.

"I think school board members are quickly realizing that the restoration to $6,700 is getting eaten up by ...retirement," Kevin Hollenbeck, president of the Michigan Association of School Boards, told Booth Newspapers.

Some school and state officials say the $74 per student given back to districts lacks solutions to greater budget problems. "You put it in their front pocket and take it out their back pocket," said Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, the chair of the Senate subcommittee on school aid spending.

Booth Newspapers, "Schools take second look at Granholm funding plan," Mar. 2, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan's Budget Challenge"

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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