Contents of this issue:
  • State deficit will impact education budget
  • Teachers' union to submit application to run charter school
  • State officials address student achievement gap
  • Five Detroit Schools Taken to Court Over Health Code Violations
  • Senate panel approves Head Start bill
  • State legislators hear comments in changing/eliminating state achievement test
  • New Columbine evidence suggests warnings were ignored
  • In-demand Oakland County technical school struggles for funding
  • California district bans junk food sales

LANSING, Mich. — Worries that state aid to schools may have to be reduced in order to deal with a state budget deficit have many Michigan school districts wondering how they will manage.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is on an 11-stop tour of Michigan, focusing on the state's $900 million deficit for fiscal year 2004. The state school budget alone faces a $361 million shortfall. Schools fear the state may have to cut up to $500 per pupil — a loss that some smaller districts may not be able to withstand. "They won't be able to cut their way out of this," Don Wotruba, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Association of School Boards, told the Free Press.

One option officials are looking at is a pro-rated, or equal, cut of $205 per pupil around the state. "Everything is on the table. Obviously, education is our top priority, but even top priorities are going to feel some cuts," said Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema.

Detroit Free Press, "School cuts look painful: State faces big education deficit," Nov. 1, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Pros and Cons of Zero- based Budgeting," November 2003

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

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), a New York City teachers' union plans to run one of 50 new charter schools the city plans to open using $50 million in private donations.

"We want to show that we practice what we preach," UFT President Randi Weingarten told the New York Times. "Hopefully I can get my union to support me on this."

This would not be the first time a teachers' union took control of a charter school — the Miami United Teachers of Dade created a partnership with Edison Schools and plans to open 10 charters there.

If the union opens the school, it would give the union insight into how a charter school runs, said Arthur Greenberg, a professor at New York University. "Every time a state education department has ever tried to take over a school or a school district, it has been eye-opening for them," he said. "There's a lot to be learned from the experience."

New York Times, "Let Us Run Charter School, Teachers' Union Head Says," Oct. 30, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002

LANSING, Mich. — A new position created by Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins will work full-time to reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students in Michigan.

The position, filled by appointee Lloyd Bingman, an Oklahoma native with a master's degree in urban education and a doctorate in education administration, is funded by a $75,000 one-year, renewable contract provided by federal sources under the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2002.

Some say that one more bureaucrat isn't the solution to problems in Michigan schools. "Parents want teachers who can teach and safe classrooms. And if the local school doesn't offer those things, parents must be allowed to freely choose another school that does," said Joseph G. Lehman, executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

According to standardized test scores from last school year, 73 percent of white fourth-graders were proficient in math, while black and Hispanic students in the same grade were 43 percent and 51 percent proficient, respectively.

Booth Newspapers, "State looks to bridge student achievement gap," Nov. 3, 2003 1067598720320040.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Less Government, Not More, Is Key to Academic Achievement and Accountability," Oct. 3, 2001

DETROIT — Five Detroit schools are facing misdemeanor charges over health code violations in their cafeterias.

Inspectors found that kitchens at the Deiter Trainable Center, Loving Jr. Elementary School, Sherrard Elementary School and MacCulloch Elementary School didn't having required hand-washing sinks. Also, schools were cited for improper food temperatures at Loving, Sherrard and MacCulloch. And at Sherrard, inspectors found that cold food was transported incorrectly and kitchen workers didn't have a food thermometer. A final school, Redford High School, had violations for burned-out lights, missing ceiling tiles, missing light shields and a broken garbage disposal.

But school officials say they've already made the corrections and the cases never should have made it to court. School officials will have to appear before a 36th District Court judge to resolve the misdemeanor charges filed earlier this month. The judge would determine penalties if the district hasn't complied.

Detroit News, "Health Dept. says school violate codes," Oct. 31, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Privatization: Economies of School," Sept. 12, 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Clare Schools Using Privatization to Keep Teachers," Sept. 4, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Contract Out School Services Before Laying Off Teachers," June 2, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. Senate committee unanimously approved last week a preliminary version of a bill to reauthorize the Head Start program. The recently approved House's version, by contrast, received no Democrat votes.

The changes include new educational standards, new teacher qualifications and a salary cap for Head Start employees at $171,900. The cap was suggested due to reports of misuse of the program's funds. "Recently, we have heard outrageous stories of Head Start funds — dollars that are specifically set aside for children — being used to pay exorbitant salaries, unnecessary travel and even leases on luxury vehicles for Head Start directors," Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said.

One major difference between the Senate and House bills is the authorization for up to eight states to take full control of administration of the Head State program. The House version includes this clause, while the Senate bill does not.

Washington Times, "Hill panel OKs Head Start's renewal," Oct. 30, 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

ADRIAN, Mich. — The Michigan House Education Committee began a series of five public hearings last week to hear comments about revamping or removing the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests.

"Based on all the testimony so far the MEAP is far from perfect," state Rep. Doug Spade, D-Adrian, told the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The MEAP has taken bashes in recent years from school administrators because some see it as a failed way to measure students' success.

But others feel differently. "It wouldn't break my heart if the MEAP goes away and something replaces it," Grass Lake Community Schools Superintendent Brad Hamilton said. Yet, "My main concern is not so much the test as what we do with the data on that test."

The panel will deliver a report on the matter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm in January based on testimony.

Jackson Citizen-Patriot, "Educators have say on MEAP," Oct. 27, 2003 106727269364740.xml

Michigan Education Report, "Which educational achievement test is best for Michigan?" Fall 2002

GOLDEN, Colo. — The Jefferson County sheriff's department recently released a video showing the teenage killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gleefully taking target practice six weeks before the April 20, 1999 massacre.

The department has also admitted that one of its investigators had been tipped off about the pair's violent inclinations two years before the attack and had done nothing. Last week, Sheriff Ted Mink, who took office over the summer, said former investigator John Hicks was told in 1997 about a Web site on which Harris described how he and Klebold were building pipe bombs and looking for a "ground zero." Hicks was also involved in the decision not to search Harris' home in 1998 after the teen threatened a fellow student, Brooks Brown.

The 1997 report was found less than two weeks ago by a deputy leafing through a training manual, the sheriff said. The sheriff asked the attorney general to investigate why the tip was not acted on.

Associated Press, "More belated disclosures outrage Columbine families," Nov. 4, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Schools Deserve 'A' for Response to Columbine Tragedy," Aug. 15, 1999

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School shootings prompt response in legislatures," April 25, 2001

CLARKSTON — Ten-year-old Oakland Science, Mathematics & Technology Academy (OSMTech) needs to add about 10 students to its enrollment of 116 and raise thousands of dollars in order to stay afloat.

The academy isn't struggling for lack of interest. More than 100 students applied for one of the 30 open freshman spots at OSMTech last year. The problem is that many of the local districts that allow students to take courses at OSMTech are facing such severe budget problems that they no longer can afford to send students to OSMTech. Many are beginning to limit the number of participants.

Local districts lose money with each student who attends the academy's half-day program. To help with costs, the district is required to send half of the state allotted amount for each student, plus $100, to the academy.

Detroit Free Press, "EDUCATION IN OAKLAND: Academy fights for survival," Nov. 3, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Los Angeles Unified School District's 713 schools will no longer be able to vend chips, candy and other snack foods due to a unanimous vote by the Los Angeles Board of Education last week.

The food ban is in addition to a ban on soft drinks that began in January. "We have a chance to make a difference in the health of our kids," board member Marlene Canter told the Los Angeles Times. "The provisions of this motion move us in that direction in a big-time way." The plan to rid schools of junk food also urges schools to end contracts with vendors that sell pizzas and burgers on campuses.

Critics of the plan say that tens of thousands of fundraising dollars may be lost because of the ban. Sports teams and school clubs commonly sell candy and other foodstuffs on- and off- campus to raise money.

The vote also relaxed cell phone and pager usage rules so students can use the devices during lunch periods.

Los Angeles Times, "Sale of Junk Food at School Banned," Oct. 29, 2003 la-me-junk29oct29,1,7160782.story?coll=la-news-learning

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Candy Police," Nov. 3, 2003

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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