Contents of this issue:
  • Kentucky voucher program expands, garners national attention
  • COMMENTARY: School district has one teacher for every 3.7 students
  • Congressional Republicans request GAO audit of Head Start program
  • Boston schools may stop busing program
  • COMMENTARY: Students left behind in Michigan schools

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A privately funded school voucher program has grown to one of the largest such programs in the nation, according to Children First America, a Texas-based advocate of vouchers.

The Louisville School Choice Scholarship Program gives scholarships up to 60 percent of tuition or $1,000 each year for three years. The organization has given $3 million in scholarships to 1,100 low-income children to attend the school of their choice and has a 400-person waiting list. "Our demand grows every year," Diane Cowne, program director, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "And that may increase."

Public school proponents, however, say the program takes money away from helping public schools. "If they focused that money on public schools, I think they could make a bigger difference for kids," said Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim. But proponents say competition is what will improve public schools, and that their program exists to offer alternatives to students that could not otherwise afford private schools. "We'd be happy if there was no need for our services," said Cowne.

Lexington Herald-Leader, "Louisville's school-voucher program gains national attention," Dec. 1, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits," April 18, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 19, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

BRIDGEHAMPTON, N.Y. — A New York Post commentary by Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research exposes extraordinary spending in a small New York state school district, where per-pupil spending has reached an incredible $45,090.

According to the district's budget, costs are about normal for educating and providing for each student, but one statistic stands out when comparing the district to others. "In 2001-02, Bridgehampton employed one teacher for every 3.7 students," wrote Winters.

The huge expenditure hasn't raised test scores; the district's scores were below the state average in English and math.

"Bridgehampton shows us there is more to education than just money," remarked Winters.

New York Post, "Gold-Plated Classrooms," Dec. 1, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Will More Money Improve Student Performance?" June 1998

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "More Spending Not the Solution to School Woes," December 1993

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressional Republicans last week requested a formal examination by the U.S. General Accounting Office of the federal Head Start program due to reports of financial mismanagement at several Head Start centers around the country. Several accounts of misspending Head Start money have surfaced, including reports of a $10.5 million loss in Charleston, S.C., and a $300,000 salary with a Mercedes lease for the Head Start executive director in Kansas City, Mo.

"The Head Start establishment has a growing credibility problem," John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Work Force, told the New York Times. "The information in this report will help teachers, parents and taxpayers know the extent of the problem, and should ultimately help Congress agree on some solutions."

New York Times, "Republicans Urge Inquiry of Head Start," Nov. 26, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hyping the Head Start Program," April 1993

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Re-Hyping the Head Start Program," August 2003

BOSTON, Mass. — Boston city officials are looking to shut down a 1970s busing program originally intended to increase racial diversity in mainly white schools.

The program is widely remembered due to violence against bused-in students when the program was court-ordered in 1974. Those wishing to end the program say it will save the district $25 million in transportation costs and let students attend schools closer to where they live.

Court orders for racial integration in Boston stood until 1999, when lawsuits threatened the school district if integration was not halted. "We're letting go of a policy that doesn't work," Ann Walsh, president Boston's Children First, an anti-busing group, told the Associated Press. "This is a very exciting moment."

Detroit Free Press, "Boston considers plan to stop school busing," Nov. 27, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Fear of Segregation Is No Argument against School Choice," February 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Choice Integrates Students of All Races," September 1999

DETROIT, Mich. — Following an examination of recently reported student scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) achievement test, the Detroit News has concluded that far too many Michigan students graduate from high school without meeting basic state standards, even though statewide education spending is 17 percent higher than the national average.

Spending per student in Michigan is over $1,000 above the national average, and the average teacher is among the best paid in the nation at $52,000 per year, but students are still behind in test scores. Some blame the MEAP for not representing students' abilities, but, "... It's not the [MEAP] test's fault," said the News in an editorial.

Other states perform better than Michigan with the same social problems and less spending. "Lawmakers should determine why relatively high education spending in Michigan brings such disappointing academic results," wrote the News. "The answer is critical to shaping the future of public education."

Detroit News, "Many Children Left Behind in Michigan Schools," Nov. 26, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Will More Money Improve Student Performance?" June 1998

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "More Spending Not the Solution to School Woes," December 1993

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?" December 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "POLICY BRIEF: Which Educational Achievement Test is Best for Michigan?" May 2002

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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