Contents of this issue:
  • Michigan's education system is average
  • Senate proposal would let governor appoint state superintendent
  • Race achievement gap still exists in Michigan
  • President Bush pushes for increased education spending
  • Bush endorses D.C. voucher proposal
  • State cuts deal with district over missing MEAP tests

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A report comparing the education systems of all 50 states and the District of Columbia placed Michigan at the national average overall, with good grades in standards and accountability but a poor grade in improving teacher quality.

The annual report, published by Washington-based Education Week, a national education weekly, gave Michigan a C in school climate, a B-plus for spending, a C for equity in spending and a D-plus for improving teacher quality. Michigan's overall score was a C-plus, the national average.

Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, told the Detroit Free Press that the report does not give the state credit for its recent improvements in teacher quality. "We do all of this to an extent. But apparently, the graders of the report didn't accept our evidence, so we'll just continue to keep working toward teacher quality," Ackley said. David Hecker, president of the Michigan Federation of Teachers, also questioned the report's findings but agreed that improvements can be made. "I really don't see how they came to that," he said. "Does more need to be done? Absolutely."

Detroit Free Press, "State gets mixed grades on schools," Jan. 8, 2004

Detroit News, "Michigan's education system gets so-so grade," Jan. 8, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Michigan lagging in teacher quality says federal agency," Early Fall 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teacher Shortage Forces States to Relax Rules for Educators," Nov. 1, 2002

LANSING, Mich. — A new state Senate proposal would let the governor appoint the state school superintendent, transferring power currently held by the state Board of Education.

Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, introduced the proposal with the support of several other Senate Republicans. Residents are not as familiar with the state Board of Education as they are with the governor, which would give a governor-appointed superintendent more credibility, said Kuipers. "To me it's a governance issue," Kuipers told the Holland Sentinel. "It is important for us to have a person that we can hold responsible for education ... the buck stops with the governor under this proposal. They can then hire the person they believe supports good public policy for education."

Currently, the governor appoints directors to every state department besides education, which has the largest budget of any state department, at $14 billion. "This governor on the campaign trail wanted to be known as the education governor," Kuipers said. "This would give her the opportunity to be just that, because she would have the ability to appoint the person that she feels the most comfortable with."

The proposal would require an amendment to the state constitution, which, to pass, must garner a two-thirds vote from both state houses and a majority vote of Michigan citizens.

Holland Sentinel, "Proposal would let governor choose state superintendent," Jan. 9, 2004

DETROIT, Mich. — Although 50 years have passed since the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a performance gap still exists between white and African-American students, according to Michigan's latest standardized test scores.

This year's Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test shows that 43 percent of black children in the state met or exceeded the proficient level on the math portion of the test, while 73 percent of white students achieved the same level of proficiency. The gap was nearly as pronounced in the language portion of the test.

Equality in education is a priority for public education, say state leaders, but urban officials say the quality of schools between the suburbs and the inner cities varies greatly. "Let's face it, if you look at a school in the inner city of Detroit and you look at a school in the outer ring of suburbs, it's not equal, and it's still quite separate," Rev. Edgar Vann, a Detroit minister, told the Detroit News.

Detroit Free Press, "RACE IN EDUCATION: Gap still persists in Michigan," Jan. 8, 2004

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

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On a road tour promoting the nation's education system, President Bush promised to push for increased federal spending on education in a spending bill he will send to Congress next month.

Bush is expected to highlight this proposal in his State of the Union address later this month. The president is expected to ask for a $1 billion increase for Title I programs, which provide money to inner-city schools. In addition, he will likely push for a $138 million increase for reading programs and another $1 billion for special education.

The money will help schools to comply with new federal standards set by the "No Child Left Behind" Act the president signed in 2002. "Putting money into a system that believes in the worth of every child and is focused on results is money well spent," said Bush.

New York Times, "Renewing His Focus on Schools, Bush Proposes Spending Increase," Jan. 9, 2004 09BUSH.html?pagewanted=all

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

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. — President Bush last week encouraged the Senate to adopt a proposal to give the District of Columbia $14 million that would create a tuition voucher program for low-income children.

"For the sake of educational excellence and for the sake of trusting parents to make the right decision for their children; for the sake, really, of helping to begin a change of education around the country . . . the Senate needs to pass this bill and make school choice in Washington, D.C., a reality," Bush told 250 members of the National Catholic Education Association who were in Washington to mark the group's 100th anniversary.

The comments marked the president's most forceful statement to date on behalf of the plan to send public dollars to students attending private schools.

The proposal is part of a $328 billion omnibus spending bill currently under deliberation in the Senate, which may face a filibuster by senators opposed to vouchers.

Washington Post, "Bush Pushes for D.C. Vouchers," Jan. 10, 2004

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

LANSING, Mich. — The state and officials of the Pinckney school district have agreed to use other means to measure the progress of student achievement, to deal with the fact that about 3,000 MEAP test scores were lost last year.

Tests also were lost for students in Detroit, Saline, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Portage and Beal City.

Federal guidelines now use the MEAP tests to help measure students' progress. And under the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act, schools that don't show progress on the tests face punishments up to a state takeover.

State Superintendent Tom Watkins said that students whose tests were lost still will be eligible for the MEAP college scholarships given to those students that perform at or above state expectations on the tests.

Detroit News, "Michigan settles case of lost tests," Jan. 9, 2004

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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