Contents of this issue:
Michigan state school board selects acting superintendent
Michigan Senate leader suggests Kent County consider tax hike
U.S. Department of Education helps expose "diploma mills" on Web site
Michigan legislators introduce bills to raise high school dropout age
Westwood Heights district ponders switching K-8 schools to charters
Michigan Gov. Granholm to propose change and increase in Merit Award
Jury convicts former Oakland ISD superintendent on two charges
MICHIGAN STATE SCHOOL BOARD SELECTS ACTING SUPERINTENDENT
DETROIT — The state Board of Education selected Jeremy Hughes, chief
academic officer of the Michigan Department of Education, as the acting
state superintendent of schools until the board selects a new schools
State Superintendent Tom Watkins resigned late last month following
pressure from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who publicly asked him to step
down. According to the Detroit Free Press, Watkins will use untapped
vacation and leave time until Mar. 9, when his resignation is expected
to take effect.
Hughes has held the post of chief academic officer since 2002, and he
will continue in that capacity while filling the role of acting
superintendent. "We have the utmost confidence in Jeremy to step in and
lead the Department of Education during the transitional period between
now and when the board appoints a new superintendent," State Board
President Kathleen Straus said in a written statement.
According to the Free Press, Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said that
the board should choose a new superintendent that the governor approves
of, but that the governor recognizes it is the board's prerogative to
hire and fire the state superintendent.
Detroit Free Press, "Hughes selected as Michigan's acting schools
chief," Jan. 31, 2005
Michigan Department of Education, "Hughes named Acting Superintendent;
Straus commends staff, educators for focus and commitment"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Lansing Must Embrace Basic Reform
Following the Watkins Debacle," January 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Watkins Gets It Right,"
MICHIGAN SENATE LEADER SUGGESTS KENT COUNTY CONSIDER TAX HIKE
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema,
R-Wyoming, suggested last week that schools in Kent County ask county
residents to vote to raise property taxes for schools, according to The
Grand Rapids Press.
The Press reported that Sikkema sent a letter to the Grand Rapids
school district saying that the idea of submitting a 3 mill property
tax hike to Kent County voters "has a number of attractive features to
a district like Grand Rapids." Sikkema noted, "The taxpayers themselves
would be making the final decision, which is an appropriate and
necessary measure of public support."
But Grand Rapids Superintendent Bert Bleke told The Press that a tax
increase would be ineffective in the long run. "Anyone with any inkling
of what's going on knows that there is a structural problem that needs
to be corrected," he said. "This (proposal) doesn't correct that
Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler suggested the proposal was not
meaningful, telling The Press, "This gives me the impression that
lawmakers don't see a real solution to the financial problems, at least
not one they feel they can present and still get re-elected." Sikkema
spokesman Ari Adler told The Press that districts are unwilling to hold
millage votes, observing, "They don't want to be the bad guys."
The Grand Rapids Press, "Sikkema: Schools can gain funding with
countywide property tax hike," Feb. 3, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or
Lack of Money Management?" August 2001
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Will More Money Improve
Student Performance?" June 1998
Michigan Education Report
, "School property taxes could increase
$5.5 billion over 10 years," Early Fall 2002
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Finance Reform Lessons from
Michigan," October 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION HELPS EXPOSE "DIPLOMA MILLS" ON WEB SITE
DETROIT — The Detroit News reported that the U.S. Department of
Education last week launched a Web site meant to help employers and
students identify unaccredited "diploma mills" that offer advanced
degrees for flat fees and little or no coursework.
According to The News, the Web site posts the credentials of 6,900
trade schools and institutions of higher learning in the United States,
making it easier to distinguish legitimate schools from those that
essentially confer a diploma for a fee. Such diploma mills earn about
$200 million per year, and anywhere from 200 to 250 mills exist,
according to state of Oregon estimates cited by The News. A recent
federal audit found government personnel with fake degrees in teaching
positions and nuclear facility safety posts.
"These degrees are fraudulent, and they are worthless," said U.S. Rep.
Michael Castle, R-Del, according to The News. "Diploma mills pose
dangers to consumers and employers, as well as the general public and
to legitimate institutions of higher learning."
The Detroit News, "Feds expose bogus degrees," Feb. 2, 2005
MICHIGAN LEGISLATORS INTRODUCE BILLS TO RAISE HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT AGE
PONTIAC, Mich. — Michigan state Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor,
introduced a bill last month that would raise the age for compulsory
school attendance from 16 to 18, according to The Oakland Press. Under
the bill, according to
, some students could satisfy
the attendance requirement through vocational education or community
college cooperative programs.
Currently, students in Michigan may drop out of school at the age of
16. Sen. Brater's legislation, like companion legislation in the
Michigan House, would require students to be enrolled in some kind of
school setting until their 18th birthday. State Rep. Andy Meisner,
D-Ferndale, a co-sponsor of the House bill, told The Press: "We just
know what happens to these kids when they don't stay in school. Often,
the picture that's painted is very vivid and also very destructive."
According to The Press, about 65 percent of Michigan high school
students graduated in the 1999-2000 school year, ranking Michigan's
graduation rate 35th nationwide. In the United States, reported The
Press, high school graduates earn an average of $6,415 more each year
than students who drop out.
Waterford Schools Superintendent Tom Tattan told The Press that
requiring students to attend until their 18th birthday could create
problems, too. "The dilemma you might have is that if kids are acting
up because they don't want to be in school, you've got to have a way to
get them out of there," he said.
The Oakland Press, "State may raise age for school dropouts,"
Feb. 7, 2005
, 2005 Senate Bill 4, 2005 House Bill 4049
WESTWOOD HEIGHTS DISTRICT PONDERS SWITCHING K-8 SCHOOLS TO CHARTERS
FLINT, Mich. — The Westwood Heights school district recently examined
the possibility of transforming its K-8 schools into charter schools,
though it later abandoned the idea, according to The Flint Journal.
Westwood Heights is a small, 1,200-student district outside of Flint.
The Journal reported that district officials asked an attorney whether
making their primary and middle schools into charter schools would,
among other things, allow them to avoid complying with current union
contracts. The attorney reportedly replied that the district could
sidestep the contracts if an outside agency ran the charter schools.
Jim Aspin, head negotiator for the local teachers union, told The
Journal, "Suddenly, the union is something they want to get rid of." He
added: "People have put their entire careers into this district, and
it's not because they're making a lot of money. This school district is
a family. But now we have a new superintendent, and that's changed and
Westwood Heights School Board Member Rebecca Rembert told The Journal
that union contracts were not the school board's primary concern.
Rather, she said, the district has failed to meet the goals for annual
academic progress set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, meaning
that the district now faces restructuring. She observed that converting
district schools to charter schools is one of the district's
restructuring options under the law, and she told The Journal: "If we
don't turn things around, we won't have to worry about union contracts.
We'll be taken over by the state."
The Flint Journal, "District ready to call it quits," Feb. 5, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When Will Conventional Public
Schools Be As Accountable As Charters?" July 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice
on Public School Districts," July 2000
MICHIGAN GOV. GRANHOLM TO REQUEST CHANGE AND INCREASE IN MERIT AWARD
LANSING, Mich. — Booth Newspapers reported that in her State of the
State address tonight, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to
propose a $1,500 increase in the Michigan Merit Award and a change in
the terms for earning it.
Currently, Michigan high school students who satisfactorily pass the
Michigan Educational Assessment Program high school tests receive a
$2,500 award. Granholm's plan, according to Booth, would raise the
total award to $4,000, but would not distribute the money based on
state high school exam performance; instead, the money would be given
to students who successfully completed two years of college or
additional training programs.
According to Booth, Granholm said last week that the state must "shift
our expectations and our support beyond 12th grade." Her proposed
program would begin in 2007, and state officials told Booth there would
be no additional impact on the state budget until 2009. The cost of the
grant would be partially offset by deducting federal Pell grants from
the state's $4,000 award.
Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, questioned
whether the governor's plan, which would delay a student's receipt of
the scholarship, would increase college enrollment. "How does this jibe
with trying to get more kids to go to college?" he asked, according to
Booth Newspapers, "Granholm to propose increasing Merit Award to
$4,000," Feb. 7, 2005
Michigan Education Report
, "College bound students receive new
state scholarships," Early Fall 2000
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Prepaid Tuition Programs
Can Help Make College Affordable," September 2001
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Competition Among Professors Would
Help Parents Afford College," August 1999
JURY CONVICTS FORMER OAKLAND ISD SUPERINTENDENT ON TWO CHARGES
DETROIT — An Oakland County jury last Tuesday convicted former Oakland
Intermediate School District Superintendent James Redmond of two crimes
and cleared him of an embezzlement charge, reported The Detroit News.
After three days of deliberation, the Oakland County jury convicted
Redmond of misconduct in office and conflict of interest, according to
The News. Redmond faces a sentence ranging from probation to five years
in prison for the crimes.
Redmond's attorneys told The News they would appeal the case. "We're
extremely disappointed. He's a professional," defense attorney Mark
Kriger told The News. "I don't think they proved their case."
Redmond faced trial for alleged crimes during his nine-year tenure as
head of the Oakland ISD, including failing to disclose his role as a
chairman of a company that had a contract with the Oakland Schools
Board of Education, according to The News. "The jury saw his conduct
for what it was," state prosecutor William Rollstin told The News. "The
(state) attorney general established the Office of Special
Investigations to look at complex cases like this one."
The Detroit News, "Ex-schools chief convicted," Feb. 2, 2005
Michigan.gov, "Jury Finds Redmond Guilty of Misconduct in Office and
Conflict of Interest," Feb. 1, 2005
Michigan Education Report
, "Financial scandals exposed in Michigan
school districts," Fall 2002
Michigan Education Report
, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?"
Winter 2000 https://www.educationreport.org/2709
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
a quarterly newspaper
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for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org
nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.