Contents of this issue:
  • Michigan Governor and Senate disagree on higher education budget cuts

  • Detroit schools to stop granting schools-of-choice waivers

  • Lansing public school board decides to close five schools

  • New U.S. secretary of education shows flexibility on NCLB

  • Michigan legislative subcommittee concludes ISD investigations

  • Federal departments reduce wait time for student visa approval

LANSING, Mich. — After receiving negative feedback from university officials concerning a planned cut in state higher education funding, Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed an immediate cut in the higher education budget that would be restored if tax revenues increased as projected later this budget year, reported Booth Newspapers.

Gov. Granholm had initially proposed a $30 million cut in the 2005 higher education budget. Her new plan, which would cut higher education spending now on the understanding it would probably be restored next May, was approved by the state House, but failed to pass muster in the state Senate, according to Booth.

Some Senate Republicans pointed to a law passed last year that they argue promised to keep higher education funding stable if schools kept tuition increases below 5 percent. "We are going to honor our word," said state Sen. Mike Goschka, R-Brant, Booth reported. Goschka also claimed that some university officials do not believe state tax revenue will increase enough to restore the funding if cut.

According to Booth, Granholm criticized the Senate for disagreeing with the new proposal, saying, "The House of Representatives was unanimously willing to stand with me in making the tough decisions to bring state spending in line, but the state Senate demonstrated that it would rather be fiscally irresponsible and continue spending money the state doesn't have."

Booth Newspapers, "Deal on college cuts in the works," Feb. 18, 2005

Michigan Privatization Report, "Bringing the Market to the Ivory Tower," Winter 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Going Broke by Degree," September 2004

DETROIT — Officials for the Detroit Public Schools announced last week they will stop granting waivers that allow families who live in Detroit to send their children to other districts that do not participate in the Michigan's schools-of-choice program, the Detroit Free Press reported. The districts decision will affect an unknown percentage of the 6,000 students who currently attend public schools outside Detroit.

The Free Press noted that this move appears to be one of several to help alleviate the district's $200 million budget deficit, which district officials say is due largely to drops in enrollment. Nearly 33,000 students in Detroit attend charter schools, aside from the 6,000 that attend conventional public schools outside the district. The district has lost approximately 40,000 students in the past decade, according to the Free Press.

District spokesman Ken Coleman told the Free Press that the elimination of waivers is due not to fiscal pressures, but to the district's conviction that its schools are competitive. "We believe that the Detroit Public Schools offer a wide variety of academic programs and educational experiences," he said. "We encourage parents to seek opportunities in our school district."

Detroit Free Press, "DPS draws line on waivers," Feb. 16, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The $200 Million Question," January 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Ironic Choices," November 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly With Detroit's Kids," July 2004

LANSING, Mich. — The Lansing State Journal reported that after two months of debate, the board of the Lansing School District voted last week to close five schools in order to save $4.6 million annually. The district is reportedly facing a $10 million to $12 million budget deficit, and its enrollment is down 13 percent since the 1995-1996 school year.

The board voted on each individual school that had been considered for closing, and it left just one school open out of six, the State Journal reported. The closings will reportedly affect about 1,000 of the district's 16,750 students. "Our hands are tied fiscally," said Board Vice President Dan Voss, according to the State Journal.

The closings will occur this summer. Officials have asked parents for help in creating new neighborhood boundaries for the district's remaining 35 schools. "Our job has just started," said Board Member Guillermo Lopez, according to the State Journal.

Lansing State Journal, "Lansing decides to close 5 schools," Feb. 18, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, after less than a month in her post, has shown flexibility in resolving conflicts between state and local officials and the federal government over the No Child Left Behind Act, according to the New York Times.

According to the Times, the Department of Education resolved a dispute in North Dakota, where 4,000 teachers contended that the Department, under its previous secretary, had accorded them insufficient qualification. The department granted those teachers' qualifications in the first several days of Spellings' tenure. "They did a complete about-face," said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, D-ND.

Still, Spellings indicated that she would not offer many concessions with respect to the Act. "I'm not necessarily going to always grant their requests," she told the Times. "I mean, we'd have everybody down here." Spellings also plans to balance states' rights to control their education systems and the federal responsibility to reduce the achievement gap among races. "That's the most important thing I'm going to do, to thread the needle of that balance," the Times reported.

New York Times, "New U.S. Secretary Showing Flexibility on 'No Child' Act," Feb. 14, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Ideology Perpetuates the Achievement Gap," February 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dancing Around Education: A 170-Year Waltz With Reform," December 2004

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

OSCODA, Mich. — The House Subcommittee of Intermediate School District Reform presented its final report to the state House in December, reported the Oscoda Press. The report is a summary of the subcommittee's investigation into ISD practices, which began in June 2002.

The investigation, led by former Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, probed practices at the Oakland ISD after letters expressing concern about internal practices in those districts were sent to the state Superintendent's office.

Also mentioned in the report was the Iosco Regional Educational Service Agency. "The whole question of ISD's in Michigan was the result of actions by the Oakland ISD. The Iosco RESA was brought under scrutiny because of allegations made by disgruntled former and present employees," said IRESA Superintendent Thomas Caldwell, according to the Press.

The report's findings included items that earlier had led to the conviction of former Oakland ISD chief James Redmond. Caldwell, however, denies that his district is guilty of all the allegations in the report. "Some allegations made toward the Iosco RESA by the House Subcommittee regarding ISD reform are somewhat correct and some are totally erroneous," the Press reported.

Packages of bills stemming from the subcommittee's findings have either been passed or wait legislative and gubernatorial approval.

Oscoda Press, "State concludes ISD investigation," Feb. 12, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Financial scandals exposed in Michigan school districts," Fall 2002

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

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

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — The General Accounting Office released a report last Friday that found the time needed for the State and Homeland Security Departments to approve foreign student visas decreased to an average of 15 days after the requisite interview, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The GAO published a report last year highlighting the problems in the federal review process for student visa approval, which indicated some applicants experienced delays of up to 12 weeks before beginning the process. Many higher education groups and business leaders, including Bill Gates, said that the delays were causing frustration and lower enrollment from students abroad, according to the Inquirer.

Graduate school applications from international students were down 32 percent last year, according to a survey by the International Institute of Education. Peggy Blumenthal of the Institute praised the improved visa application process but said public relations problems are still a hindrance. "Even more important than the actual wait times, which have improved, is combating the perception abroad by students that the situation is the same as it was shortly after Sept. 11," said Blumenthal, according to the Inquirer.

Philadelphia Inquirer, "U.S. streamlines processing of foreign students' visas," Feb. 18, 2005

General Accounting Office, "Border Security: Streamlined Visas Mantis Program Has Lowered Burden on Foreign Science Students and Scholars, but Further Refinements Needed," Feb. 18, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Immigration and Open Borders," November 1997

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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