Contents of this issue:
  • DPS graduation rate is 32 percent
  • Independent schools advertise for students
  • Michigan schools received recalled beef
  • Southfield considers competitive contracting
  • Highland Park school board member sues colleagues over funds
  • Comment and win an iPod

DETROIT — About 32 percent of Detroit Public Schools students graduate in four years, according to The Detroit News.

The results come from a Michigan State University study using methods now required by the federal government. The Michigan Department of Education, which will adopt the MSU model statewide, says the DPS graduation rate is 66.8 percent, The News reported.

"It doesn't seem credible to me," DPS Board President Carla Scott told The News. "You can make data for anything you want it to say, but (they) should have factored in the reasons why they left."

Scott said students who leave the district before graduation should not be counted as dropouts.

The statewide graduation rate for the four years ending in 2006 was 72.9 percent, The News said, which is lower than the 85.7 percent claimed by the MDE.

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools grad rate: 32%," Feb. 25, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Legislators: Listen to Detroit Parents," Feb. 5, 2007

DETROIT — Private and parochial schools in Michigan have begun to embrace advertising and marketing as a way to attract students and combat dropping enrollment, according to The Detroit News.

Enrollment at independent schools in Michigan has dropped 28 percent in the last decade, while the number of nonpublic schools has decreased from more than 1,000 to about 870, The News reported.

University Liggett School in metro Detroit has increased spending on advertising.

"It's pretty aggressive," Peggy O'Connor, Liggett's director of marketing and public relations, told The News. "I can tell you that our (advertising) spending is well into the six figures and that's a significant increase for us."

O'Connor said that while it is a sacrifice for parents to send their children to an independent school, they also should think about the benefits.

"But our kids end up going to some excellent colleges and universities with scholarships," O'Connor told The News. "So, it helps parents to know they might be paying for school now, but they may not have to later."

The Archdiocese of Detroit, which has seen a 25 percent drop in enrollment the last six years, started an advertising campaign two years ago that includes billboards and radio spots.

Laura Wroblewski, who has one son in Catholic grade school and another son in Catholic high school, said the ads helped her family realize the sacrifices they are making are worth it.

"You need to know there's always an option," Wroblewski told The News. "Our children are learning compassion and tolerance (at school). They're learning that there are other people out there and we all need to help each other."

The Detroit News, "Private schools make public pitch," Feb. 23, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Opportunities of Education Tax Credits," Nov. 23, 2007

DETROIT — Several Michigan school districts received beef that is part of the largest food recall ever, according to The Detroit News.

Schools in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids received products from Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in California, which is the target of a USDA investigation for animal abuse, The News reported.

USDA Undersecretary Kate Houston said much of the beef, shipped since February 2006, has most likely already been consumed by students, and that it is unlikely to cause an illness, according to The News.

Detroit Public Schools found 24 cases of processed taco meat and 126 cases of processed chili meat from the company in its warehouse, Karen Cutler, a spokeswoman for Aramark, told The News. Aramark is a company hired by DPS to manage the district's lunch program.

The Detroit News, "Schools received recalled meat," Feb. 19, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Privatization vote prompts violent thread against DPS board," May 23, 2006

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Southfield Public Schools has hired consultants from the Oakland County Intermediate School District to examine the possibility of competitively contracting janitorial, food and busing services, according to the Southfield Eccentric.

Four consultants will work for $50-$100 an hour for a total contract that will not exceed $50,000. This is the first time such an arrangement has been made for contracting, the Eccentric reported.

The district's support services union has already started a petition drive against competitive contracting and estimates a total of 1,325 signatures. The school board voted 4-0 to approve the agreement and maintains that it is only looking into the option and has not made a decision. The district is expecting a 0.9 percent increase in student spending, but that is negated by a 1 percent increase in the cost of employee retirement benefits. The district projects that it will spend $6 million more than it takes in for 2008-2009, according to the Eccentric.

Southfield Eccentric, "Southfield schools look for outside help in deciding on privatization," Feb. 21, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — A member of the Highland Park board of education has filed a lawsuit against certain members — including the board president — for using taxpayer money to purchase a variety of electronic goods, according to The Detroit News.

Robert Davis filed a lawsuit asking other board members to pay back about $13,000 to the district for items like home computers, PDAs and printers. He is also seeking the judge to rule that board President Jamille Edwards has violated her oath of office, The News reported.

"Their conduct is too egregious for me to just sit back and let it happen and not bring it to the forefront," Davis said. "It is a clear violation of the person's oath of office."

The district has faced financial woes and declining enrollment for years. Davis's suit claims board member Joyce Watkins has spent the most district money for personal electronics, The News reported. Watkins spent a total of $2,764 for a desktop computer, two printers, a wireless card, a sound system, web cam, a laptop computer and a cell phone, according to The News. Board member Brenda Epperson was shocked by the lawsuit, saying she was given a laptop and case to use for board business.

"When I was elected to the board this equipment was lent to me, not to keep, but to be used for board business," Epperson told The News. "This is for when I travel, and I'm taking classes to become a certified board member. I have my own desktop, I have a fax machine, I have my own cell phone, I have my own stuff. This is what I use for board business."

The Detroit News, "Member sues chief, school board," Feb. 20, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Board Self-Help," Sept. 27, 2004

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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