Contents of this issue:
  • State Legislature plans to rein in ISD power
  • District offers teachers performance pay, test scores rise
  • High school diplomas lose value
  • Education coalition pushes governor, Legislature for more education revenue
  • Granholm offers funding deal to state universities
  • Bush administration refutes complaints about costs of "No Child Left Behind" mandates

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan legislators last week began hearings to decide whether to alter and remove certain powers currently held by intermediate school districts (ISDs).

The series of proposals, named "Accountability 101," suggests reforms to the ISD system, including publicly elected boards, term limits and power to recall ISD officers. Out of Michigan's 57 intermediate districts, three currently have recall provisions in place. "Right now, there is no ability for the people, the parents, the taxpayers to remove board members for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance," Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, told the Detroit Free Press.

The Oakland Intermediate School District is currently under investigation by the state Attorney General and the FBI for misappropriating millions of dollars in state and federal funding for a $9 million fiber-optic network and a $30 million administration building, among other incidents.

Detroit Free Press, "Legislators aim to rein in school boards," Feb. 4, 2004

Oakland Press, "Accountability 101," Feb. 4, 2004 news.cfm?newsid=10913444&BRD=982&PAG=461&dept_id=467992&rfi=6

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003

Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?" Winter 2000

Michigan Education Report, "Group files complaints against districts," Spring 2000

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Third graders in the Chattanooga, Tenn. school district are experiencing a large aggregate score increase following implementation of an experimental system granting pay increases to teachers with high-performing and improving students.

Funded by the school district and private foundations, the system is part of a reform effort to better prepare teachers for teaching in low-performing schools. Gerry Dowler of the Tennessee Education Association said the union is receptive to the idea of a merit pay system for teachers. "When you look at what is best for students, sometimes it does take some radical changes and requires us to experiment and try some options," she told the Washington Post.

The district's success with the program prompted The Teaching Commission, a private panel focused on improving teacher performance nationwide, to highlight the district in a new report calling for comprehensive reform in teacher training and compensation systems. "Until we make it more attractive for teachers to stay in our most challenging schools by offering a significant salary premium — enough to make their earnings exceed those of teachers with less demanding assignments in affluent neighborhoods — the teacher shortage in hard-to-staff schools will not go away," the commission said.

Washington Post, "A Move to Invest More in Effective Teaching," Feb. 10, 2004 (requires registration)

The Teaching Commission, "Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action," Jan. 14, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Incentives for Teacher Performance in Government Schools: An Idea Whose Time Has Come," Spring 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Businesses and universities nationwide are becoming increasingly concerned with the value of a high school diploma, saying that graduates are not prepared for work or college, according to an analysis of several states' diplomas. The report, published by the American Diploma Project (ADP), states that a strong math and reading background are required to properly perform in today's job market. "If you want a decent job at a decent wage, it's a high-skill job," Michael Cohen, president of the Achieve Inc., an ADP member, told the Washington Post.

Raising the standards for math and English skills should be a priority in the United States, according to the researchers behind the report. "A high school diploma should mean something to an employer and university," said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, co-chairman of Achieve, Inc.

Detroit News, "School diplomas lose clout," Feb. 10, 2004

American Diploma Project, "Defining Postsecondary Expectations," Summer 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," Aug. 31, 2000

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

LANSING, Mich. — A coalition organized to raise state funding for public schools met for the first time last week in Lansing.

The group says schools statewide are reducing spending on teachers, school supplies and extra-curricular classes. An estimated $900 million state deficit forced the Legislature to cut funding for schools to balance the budget.

The coalition, called "K-16 Coalition for Michigan's Future," is comprised of education lobbyists, teachers' unions and universities. The group faces an uphill battle, as both the governor and the Legislature have not expressed interest in raising more money for any state department.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm didn't mention tax hikes in her State of the State address last week, and Matt Resch, spokesman for House Speaker Rick Johnson, R-LeRoy, said lawmakers aren't eager to ask for more, either.

"There has not been a willingness either on the part of the governor or the Legislature to go to the taxpayers and say that we want more money," Resch told Booth Newspapers.

Booth Newspapers, "Coalition wants residents to know schools' pain," Feb. 4, 2004 107585160175300.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Money and Red Tape," January 2004

LANSING, Mich. — In her State of the State address last month, Gov. Jennifer Granholm laid out a deal to reduce state funding cuts to colleges and universities if they agree to hold off on tuition increases.

Granholm promised to give the schools back half of the $240 million cut to higher education made last year as her end of the deal. Schools must make concessions on class size and selection to keep tuition affordable, say state officials.

However, some say that tuition costs should not be the top priority in providing a quality secondary education. "There is no revolt on campus over the cost of tuition," Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan said. "The cost of four years' education at most schools is about the cost of a Chevy Malibu. A degree is worth at least that much."

Detroit News, "Tuition deal double-edged," Feb. 5, 2004

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — States beginning to grapple with the mandates contained in President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" law are complaining that they cost too much.

Ohio, for example, recently released a report estimating that the state will have to spend $1.5 billion per year to meet increased teacher testing and administrative requirements. The state currently receives half of that amount from the federal government.

But Bush administration officials and some school finance experts say the Ohio report and other estimates like it overlook the fact that states committed to raising student achievement before President Bush signed the measure two years ago.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige says the Ohio study is "overstated a good deal" and that the administration has done its part to help states. Annual federal funding for K-12 education has increased more than 40 percent since President Bush took office. Spending on Title I — the biggest program under the "No Child Left Behind law" — rose from $7.9 billion in fiscal 2000 to $12.3 billion in fiscal 2004, the current budget year.

Education Week, "Debate Grows on True Costs Of School Law," Feb. 4, 2004 (registration required)

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

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

To subscribe, go to: