Contents of this issue:
  • Secretary Paige promotes school choice at think tank speech

  • Board members question timing of union-backed write-in candidates

  • Granholm pushes for tax hike

  • Business leaders draw up Detroit schools plan at island summit

  • Central Michigan University cancels charter

  • Census data shows troubling amount of dropouts

  • Bill would realign Adult Education funding

  • Grand Valley State University may use loophole to open charters

  • Colleges save by combining purchases


SECRETARY PAIGE PROMOTES SCHOOL CHOICE AT THINK TANK SPEECH
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige promoted school vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools at a luncheon in Ann Arbor on Friday hosted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, yet said he is still an advocate of traditional public school systems.

Paige, former superintendent of Houston Public Schools, told some 75 members of the Mackinac Center's boards of advisors and their guests that school choice was instrumental in narrowing the academic achievement gap between minority and majority students.

He noted that African-American and Hispanic students lag behind white students on standardized tests and graduation rates. "We're making great progress. ... The Supreme Court has made it clear that vouchers are constitutional," Paige said. "The achievement gap is today's civil rights issue."

Paige praised the Mackinac Center and similar research institutes for helping "blaze a trail of education reform in Michigan and across the nation." Paige told the audience he applauded the Mackinac Center's "leadership in support of universal education tax credits."

SOURCES:
Ann Arbor News, "Paige touts school vouchers," June 5, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/ news-9/ 1086430582327060.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education for All: Choice, Reform, and Optimism," speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige to the Mackinac Center Boards of Advisors, June 4, 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6660

Michigan Education Report, "Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits," Spring 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4372

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4846

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A New Direction for Education Reform," speech by Lawrence W. Reed reprinted in Imprimis, a Hillsdale College publication, July 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3541


BOARD MEMBERS QUESTION TIMING OF UNION-BACKED WRITE-IN CANDIDATES
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Two write-in candidates backed by the district's school employee union entered the previously uncontested race for the Kalamazoo school board late last week, raising questions regarding the union's role in the election and whether it is attempting to accomplish through politics what it could not accomplish at the bargaining table.

Union officials were frustrated after their 2003-2004 contract negotiations, which ended with a two-year settlement on May 27 after a bitter, yearlong dispute. When talks stalled, the board attempted to ask teachers to pay a portion of their health insurance like most private sector workers, a move the union blocked in court.

Nancy Schemanski, who retired last year as a representative for the MEA-linked Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA), and Sandra Parker, a vice president of United Auto Workers Local 6000, belatedly joined incumbents Tim Bartik and Polly Freer in vying for two seats on the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education.

Although the challengers have just days to campaign, they have the backing and ground support of the Michigan Education Association. The union is similarly supporting write-in candidates in Clare and other districts, according to school officials.

In a letter sent to its members late last week, the union recommended voting for Schemanski and Parker and asked for volunteers to make phone calls every day this week and even to campaign for the two women Monday at the polls. To make sure write-in names are not misspelled, the union is distributing pre- printed stickers bearing candidates' names. Schemanski said the MEA's political-action committee also gave $500 toward her campaign.

Local MEA representative Chuck Corella would not say why the association is backing Schemanski and Parker specifically, calling the decision "private."

SOURCES:
Kalamazoo Gazette, "Write-ins roil school election," June 8, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-9/ 108671704453480.xml?kzgazette?NEKP

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan Education Association documents related to Kalamazoo write-in candidates, June 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/media/images/2004/meaaction.pdf

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Consolidating Elections Is The Right Thing To Do,"
December 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/6046

Michigan Education Report, "Consolidate School Elections with General Elections," Early Fall 1999
http://www.educationreport.org/2232


GRANHOLM PUSHES FOR TAX HIKE
LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Jennifer Granholm said at a news conference last week that she may cut funding for school aid this fall if legislators do not enact her plan to increase taxes in the state.

Granholm told her audience that increased taxes on cigarettes and liquor would alleviate a $50 million deficit in school aid and Medicaid. Though the House passed a tax increase bill last week that would give Granholm much of the funding she would like, the Senate has yet to act, because some legislators say there are other options to raising taxes. "We just don't agree with [Granholm]. There are other options," Keith Ledbetter, spokesman for House Speaker Rick Johnson, R-LeRoy, told the Detroit Free Press.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said in a statement that he would work with Gov. Granholm to fix the funding problems but reminded state officials that neither Democrats nor Republicans will get all of their demands met for next year's budget. Neither side is in a position "to dictate their own terms," said Sikkema.

The House bill, which includes a cigarette tax hike of 75 cents per pack, would raise $301 million for the state next fiscal year. Granholm's plan includes a tax on non-cigarette tobacco products and would raise an estimated $314 million.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Pupils need tax hike now, Granholm says," June 2, 2004
http://www.freep.com/news/mich/crisis2_20040602.htm

MichiganVotes.org, House Bill 5632, Mar. 10, 2004
http://www.michiganvotes.org/2004-HB-5632

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Lawmakers Could Balance Budget by Cutting Spending and Selling State Assets," May 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6546

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Sinful Sin Taxes," April 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6468


BUSINESS LEADERS DRAW UP DETROIT SCHOOLS PLAN AT ISLAND SUMMIT
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Detroit business and city officials spent several days at a Mackinac Island summit held by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce to create a new plan for governance of the Detroit School District.

Working with officials from the Detroit district and Lansing, the attendees wrote up a proposal to allow Detroit voters a choice in the management type of their district.

Voters would decide whether they prefer a district controlled by a traditional, elected school board or a system with a strong chief executive appointed by the mayor and approved by the school board who would wield fiscal authority.

SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Detroit Schools plan hatched," June 6, 2004
http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0406/06/b01-174859.htm

Michigan Education Report, "Compromise Gives Archer Control of Detroit Schools," Spring 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/1678


CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY CANCELS CHARTER
MT. PLEASANT, Mich. — Central Michigan University will cancel its charter with the Walter French Academy in Lansing, university officials informed the school late last month, citing academic and financial problems.

In an attempt to remain open to its students, Academy administrators told the Lansing State Journal that they will seek sponsorship by the Lansing School District, Bay Mills Community College, Eastern Michigan, Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State universities.

District officials say they must take more time to study the issue, as the district has never sponsored a charter school.

Board members say that financial problems and low academic success must be taken into account, especially due to a projected $10 million deficit by the district.

Michigan charter schools have closed in the past. Charter schools that fail to attract students or satisfy their chartering agents cease to operate and consume tax dollars. Traditional public schools are rarely closed when they fail to meet standards.

SOURCES:
Lansing State Journal, "Walter French to launch search for new sponsor," June 2, 2004
http://www.lsj.com/news/schools/040602_walterfrench_1a-5adtxt.html

Detroit News, "Michigan Briefs," June 3, 2004
http://www.detnews.com/2004/metro/0406/03/d07d-171832.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4864

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2962


CENSUS DATA SHOWS TROUBLING AMOUNT OF DROPOUTS
DETROIT, Mich. — Data from the 2000 U.S. Census give a dismal outlook to many Michigan youths who dropped out of school before completing a high school diploma.

A study of population trends released last week found that one- quarter of 18- to 24-year olds in Michigan are school dropouts, leading to lives of poverty and, possibly, crime. That number increases to one-third of the young adult population in Detroit.

Covenant House Michigan director Cynthia Adams said that over three-quarters of the youths in her program for troubled teens and young adults are dropouts, some out of middle school. "They flunk out; some don't feel safe going to school," among other reasons, Adams told the Detroit Free Press.


SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "More Michigan teens disconnect — no work, no school," June 3, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/base/news-4/ 1086257454289640.xml

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Kids Count 2004," June 2004
http://www.aecf.org/kidscount/

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/3025


BILL WOULD REALIGN ADULT EDUCATION FUNDING
LANSING, Mich. — A bill to initiate a pilot program requiring adult education and job training programs to compete with one another for state funding will likely be taken up this week in the state House.

The legislation would initiate a pilot program in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties by which adult ed. programs in that tri-county area would have to bid against each other to receive state funding for different programs. Currently, each program is given funding based on the number of students enrolled. About 1,650 people receive $600,000 worth of state-funded training in those districts from nine programs.

Robert Nole, an administrator at Lansing's adult education program, said that any funding cut would be catastrophic to his program. "We're struggling to stay afloat as it is," he said.

"Why ... would you even consider a pilot program that hasn't proven itself?"

But Deb LaPine, head of the career education programs at the Department of Labor and Economic Growth, said the goal is not to deprive programs of money but to make them more cost effective.

"It's not trying to hurt schools or regions," LaPine told the Lansing State Journal. "We're trying to provide as many services as we could."


SOURCES:
Lansing State Journal, "Bill could shuffle adult ed funding," June 7, 2004
http://www.lsj.com/news/capitol/040607_adulted_1b-3b.html

Michigan Privatization Report, "Nonprofitization: Education and Training Group Goes Private,"
Fall 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2139

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/3025


GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY MAY USE LOOPHOLE TO OPEN CHARTERS
ALLENDALE, Mich. — Administrators with Grand Valley State University's charter school program say they may use a loophole in the state's cap on university-sponsored charters in an effort to give parents more options by opening two more schools.

Grand Valley would transfer charters of two of its schools to Bay Mills Community College, which is run by a Native American tribe and therefore exempt from the state's cap of 150 university- authorized charter schools. That would allow Grand Valley two openings for new charters, which would be run by Grand Rapids- based National Heritage Academies. "We have 10 years of experience [with charters]," said GVSU charter school director Edward Richardson, "yet because of the cap we've been dormant."

Past proposals and legislation to eliminate or raise the cap on the number of charter schools have failed due to opposition by legislators, interest groups and Governor Granholm. Martin Ackley, spokesman for State Superintendent Tom Watkins, told the Muskegon Chronicle that his department will not oppose Grand Valley's use of the loophole. "As long as the laws are being followed in the ways they are written, we aren't going to object," he said.

SOURCES:
Muskegon Chronicle, "GVSU may open two charter schools using loophole," June 1, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/news/muchronicle/index.ssf?/ base/news-3/ 108610110113980.xml

Commission on Charter Schools to the Michigan Legislature Final Report, April 2002
http://www.charterschools.msu.edu/cschools_rpt.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4864

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2962


COLLEGES SAVE BY COMBINING PURCHASES
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Several independent Connecticut colleges and universities have formed a buying consortium aimed at saving money by purchasing goods and services as a group.

The Connecticut group is one of many purchasing consortiums nationwide that save member institutions millions of dollars per year through group purchases of anything from food and soft drinks to lawyers. "The big schools need my volume to further their savings, and I need the big schools' buying power to get down my costs," said Mike Jednak, who is in charge of facilities at St. Joseph's College in West Hartford, which partners with Yale University. "Everyone's reading about how the cost of education is just skyrocketing. This is a fantastic way to get our arms around it and save dollars for students."

Private institutions lead the way in purchasing consortiums, say experts, because they are not required to meet regulations that public universities are, like buying from minority- and locally- owned businesses. Some states, though, including Michigan and Iowa, allow public schools to form buying groups on their own.

David Olien, senior vice president for administration with the Wisconsin public university system, says he hopes Wisconsin will adopt a law similar to Michigan's. "I believe we could save millions of dollars," he told the Associated Press.


SOURCES:
CNN, "Colleges reap savings with joint deals," June 1, 2004
http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/06/01/ collaborating.colleges.ap/ index.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Prepaid Tuition Programs Can Help Make College Affordable," September 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3685

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Competition Among Professors Would Help Parents Afford College," August 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2105


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.

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