Contents of this issue:
  • Kalamazoo Catholic schools to offer sliding tuition scale

  • Report: federal Head Start program mismanaged, faulty

  • Michigan's public university officials denounce higher education cuts

  • Oakland County educators react to Granholm curriculum plan

  • Several Detroit-area Catholic high schools to close

  • West Michigan school contracts bring contention, stress

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo announced last week it would set tuition on a sliding scale based on family income, the number of children per family attending Catholic schools in the area, and family membership in area parishes, reported the Kalamazoo Gazette.

David Rutten, executive director for the school system, said the new tuition scale would make attending Catholic schools more affordable for some families. "One of the reasons people commonly give us for not considering Catholic schools is that they feel they can't afford it," said Rutten, according to the Gazette. Officials hope the tuition scale will increase enrollment in the area's Catholic schools; enrollment has reportedly dropped by several hundred students since 1996.

Elementary tuition will range from $500 to $2,875 for one-student parish families, and from $350 to $2,015 for two-student families, according to a statement released by the school system. The maximum rate will be assigned to families with a household income of $120,000 per year or more.

The school system also announced that St. Joseph School, one of its kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools, will eliminate grades seven and eight after this school year.

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Catholic schools switch to sliding-scale tuition," Mar. 17, 2005

Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo, Town Hall Update, Jan. 24, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Painting the private school picture," Spring 2000

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Forging Consensus," April 2004

NEW YORK — A report released by the Government Accountability Office found that government attempts to fix management and financial problems in the federal Head Start program have failed to produce results, reported The New York Times.

A GAO review of financial reports of Head Start preschool programs over a three-year period found that half of the financial irregularities found in 2000 were not resolved, in part due to government failure to repair the problems, according to The Times. Over 75 percent of Head Start programs were found to have financial irregularities in 2000.

House Republicans, who requested the 2003 review of Head Start programs, criticized the inability of the government to resolve financial mismanagement in the program. According to The Times, some representatives allege that an "unacceptable share" of program funds have been "lost to financial abuse, mismanagement, impropriety or outright theft."

Sarah Greene, president of the National Head Start Association, said that many of the criticisms have been blown out of proportion. "It is hugely misleading to equate 'parking ticket' offenses with a tiny number of actual problem situations," said Greene, according to The Times. "The G.A.O. makes a whopper of an error."

The New York Times, "Government Is Criticized on Oversight of Head Start," Mar. 18, 2005

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

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

LANSING, Mich. — Booth Newspapers reported last Thursday that representatives for Michigan's 15 public universities decried Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed budget cuts for higher education.

Granholm has proposed a $25 million cut to the state's higher education budget for 2006, according to Booth; that budget has already been reduced from $1.6 billion in 2002 to $1.4 billion this year. "It's been a tough year, but we have to question how the state can hold down tuition, cut our state aid and conclude that we're properly investing in higher education," said Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, in testimony to the state House last Wednesday.

The governor's administration defended the planned cut, saying that a proposed $200 million bond issue would be available for universities to maintain and improve university and community college plants. "We absolutely disagree with the notion that a promise was broken," a spokesman for the state budget office told Booth. "As a matter of fact," he argued, "more money was made available to universities" under Granholm's plan.

Booth Newspapers, "Universities lash out on budget cuts," March 17, 2005

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

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

PONTIAC, Mich. — In an Oakland Press report yesterday, Oakland County educators reacted to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to make Michigan's high school curriculum more rigorous.

Granholm's plan would require high school curricula statewide to include "four years of English, three of math, three of science, two of a foreign language and 3 1-2 of social studies," according to The Press. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that almost one-third of students continuing to college have to take remedial math and language courses. "Obviously, we want our students to be as best prepared as possible before they go off to college and the work world," said Larry Boehms, president of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.

The planned curriculum, along with local requirements, could take time away from elective courses, some educators observed. Karen Eckert, director of curriculum for Oxford schools, told The Press, "This would not leave students a lot of time to do exploration through electives, and I think high school is a time when kids need to explore where their interests and aptitudes lie."

State officials attempted to standardize curriculum across the state nearly a decade ago, according to The Press. The proposal failed in part because of concerns over local control of education.

The Daily Oakland Press, "Reaction to governor's education plan mixed," March 21, 2005

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

Michigan Education Report, "Markets, not MEAP, best way to measure school quality," Spring 2000

DETROIT — Cardinal Adam Maida announced last week that the Detroit-area Catholic school system would close at least eight area high schools due to budget deficits and declining enrollment, reported the Detroit Free Press.

"The enrollment in Catholic schools in the city of Detroit has declined 47 percent in the past five years," said Ned McGrath, spokesman for Cardinal Adam Maida, according to the Free Press. "The schools involved have been running operating deficits of over $3 million for the last five years. They have outstanding accumulated debts over $16 million."

Though the number of students affected by the closings amounts to about 5 percent of the local Catholic school system, some are worried about the fate of displaced students. "We have a wonderful school here. Ninety percent of our kids go on to colleges," Kim Redigan, a teacher at Holy Redeemer High School, told the Free Press. "Where are those kids going to go? I don't know. This is a momentous loss."

The archdiocese served nearly 200,000 students at its peak enrollment in the 1960s, according to the Free Press. Between 2002 and 2004, the system closed around 20 schools.

Detroit Free Press, "Catholic schools to close," March 16, 2005

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Disagreements over benefit and salary costs have caused the most problem- and stress-ridden school employee contract negotiations in Western Michigan since the 1980s, reported the Kalamazoo Gazette.

In the past two years, contract talks at the Portage, Comstock, Gull Lake, Kalamazoo and Climax-Scotts school systems have dragged on for months, due in part to a sharp increase in health care costs. Health insurance premiums will increase by $1 million at Kalamazoo schools next year, even with a reduced employee base, according to the Gazette. Pension payments will increase by about $650,000 at Portage schools.

Several teachers for the Kalamazoo district were arrested in 1985 while picketing during contract bargaining that ultimately took six months to complete, according to the Gazette. The current contract for Kalamazoo took a year to negotiate. "This year ... is a more complicated process," Kalamazoo finance director Gary Start told the Gazette. "It's considerably more difficult than it was 10 or 20 years ago."

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Teacher talks take toll on all," March 20, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A New Day for Michigan Schools," April 1995

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," August 1998

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MEA Abuses Public School Health Care Funds," Aug. 7, 2001

Michigan Privatization Report, "Ensuring Insurance Competition," September 1998

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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