Contents of this issue:
  • ISD surplus angers school officials
  • Group looks to replace MEAP with ACT
  • Urban districts score below national averages
  • States falsely report graduation rates, says report
  • University of Michigan to hold largest fundraiser in its history

LAPEER, Mich. — Lapeer County school district superintendents are angry about a $5 million surplus in the Lapeer County Intermediate School District's (LISD) budget, at a time when they have been forced to scrap school programs due to budget cuts.

The LISD surplus is three times the recommended balance for a budget of its size. "If I had known about the [fund balance], perhaps I would have pounded on the table a little harder," former Lapeer School District superintendent Ron Caniff told the Flint Journal. In one case, the Lapeer School District was forced to pay $98,000 for a program to educate disabled students, while the LISD was sitting on a $1.3 million fund balance for special education programs.

Superintendents agree that the LISD fund surplus was not discussed at the intermediate district's budget planning meeting. "One of the roles of any ISD is to assist local districts by providing services, particularly in areas which are not cost-efficient because of the low number of students involved," said current Lapeer School District superintendent Thomas Gay.

Flint Journal, "Surpluses rile school officials," Dec. 21, 2003 1072014780322930.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Greater Transparency Could Have Helped Budget Battlers," December 2003

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan's Budget Challenge," April 2003


DETROIT, Mich. — Last month, a Michigan Senate committee passed a resolution requesting a report from the Michigan Education Alliance, a group that includes school administrators, unions, principals, parents, universities and community colleges, that examines replacing the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) achievement test with the nationally recognized ACT test. In Illinois, college enrollment increased 23 percent after that state eliminated its testing program and replaced it with the ACT. A survey indicated many of the enrolling students had no plans to attend college prior to the test. "They suddenly received test scores that helped them realize college is an option. It's a common belief that thousands of students are in college today who otherwise would have not considered it," ACT spokesman Ken Gullette told the Detroit Free Press.

Some say a switch to the ACT would be costly and remove some of the state's specific achievement standards. But others believe the switch would be less expensive than administering the MEAP and still would be a good measure of student achievement. "There is some merit to it being investigated. But we don't have enough information to know whether this is a good idea or not," said Jim Gullen, a consultant with the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency.

Detroit Free Press, "The ACT vs. MEAP: A debate is brewing," Dec. 23, 2003

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A report released last Wednesday shows that students in large, urban districts scored below national averages on math and reading tests.

With the exception of Charlotte, N.C., students in nine of the largest urban districts scored lower than national averages. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 30 percent of urban fourth- and eighth-graders meet or exceed the "proficient" level in reading. In math, only 31 percent of fourth-graders and 27 percent of eighth-graders perform at or above the "proficient" level.

For some minority groups, however, the findings were positive. For example, black students in some urban cities performed better than blacks nationwide. The report "... removes that as one of the excuses: 'We can't educate them because they're in the inner city,'" Darvin Winick, chairman of the independent board that oversees the federal test, told the Associated Press.

CNN, "Report: City schools score below U.S. average," Dec. 17, 2003

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education," November 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A report published yesterday by the Education Trust, a group focusing on reform of K-12 education, says that many states, including Michigan, drastically overestimate graduation rates.

According to the report, a wide variation among states shows that the data submitted by each state to the federal government is inaccurate. For example, South Dakota reported a 97 percent rate of graduation, while Nevada reported a graduation rate of 63.7 percent. "Many states are severely underreporting the number of students who are not successfully graduating from high school, and this undermines their ability to address the problem," said Kevin Carey, a senior policy analyst with the Education Trust. States are required by the "No Child Left Behind" Act to submit annual graduation rates. By falsifying graduation rates, the states "are not doing the students any good by pretending they are graduating," said Carey.

Detroit News, "States accused of reporting faulty grad data," Dec. 23, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence," January 2002

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan in May plans to kick off its largest fundraiser since the school's founding, in the hopes of replacing recently cut state funds and beating its current record of $1.4 billion raised in a 1997 fundraising campaign.

Campaign workers have already begun the campaign, soliciting donations from Michigan's 450,000 alumni in a "quiet" campaign to build anticipation for the public drive this spring. "I think we're at a point where people will resonate even more to the needs of the university," Jerry May, U-M's vice president for development, said of recent budget cuts.

While U-M was the first school to raise over $1 billion in its 1992-1997 fundraising campaign, the University of California at Los Angeles, which has raised $2.2 billion so far, trumped that record in a still-active campaign.

Detroit News, "U-M maps largest fund drive ever," Dec. 22, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan's State Budget: Higher Education," March 4, 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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