Contents of this issue:
  • Granholm approves ISD reform bills

  • Commentary: Growing Detroit bureaucracy keeps money out of the classroom

  • EMU faculty push for university president's dismissal

  • Administration officials suggest changes will be made to NCLB

  • Lawmakers debate vouchers vs. tuition tax credits

  • Department of Education hosts NCLB seminars for teachers

  • Study: Alabama remedial education costs $541 million annually

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Jennifer Granholm last Wednesday approved several measures requiring heightened accountability in the state's intermediate school districts (ISDs), completing the first wave of measures intended to rein in ISD power.

The new rules include changes in the way ISD boards are chosen, eliminating secret elections of ISD board members by local school boards. Currently, local boards are allowed to shield their votes for ISD board members from the public eye. In addition, the laws allow local school boards and citizens to remove ISD board members.

ISDs must now also obtain approval before sending board members and employees on trips out-of-state. Legislators introduced the laws in response to financial scandals by the Oakland ISD and hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses by the Genesee ISD.

Flint Journal, "Granholm signs ISD reform bills," July 22, 2004 http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-22/ 1090510101103770.xml

Detroit News, "New laws lend teens, districts some leeway," July 22, 2004

, House Bills 5376, 4947, 4338

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

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

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

DETROIT, Mich. — Claims that the Detroit Public Schools cannot afford to educate students at its current level of funding are unfounded, according to a Detroit Free Press commentary published today.

According to an analysis by Andrew Coulson, a senior fellow in education policy with the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Detroit school district employs over 1,700 more people since 1997 to teach about 35,000 fewer children — a costly, unnecessary burden on a district already plagued by annual deficits reaching $250 million.

The Detroit school district and the State of Michigan report different numbers for the district's declining enrollment and expanding employment, but both data sets indicate the same trends. "It's clear that the district is having difficulty making reasonable personnel decisions," stated Coulson.

The increase in staff coupled with the decrease in students explains the soaring per-pupil costs for educating children in the Michigan's largest city. In 1997, the district spent $8,830 per pupil, while in 2003 that number exceeded $11,000, adjusted for inflation. "For that amount of money, a few neighbors could get together and hire a full-time tutor for 6 children at an annual salary of over $66,000," said Coulson. "Talk about small class size and individualized attention."

The best way to fix Detroit's overspending is not more money, said Coulson. Instead parents should be allowed a wide range of school options that would encourage the district to compete for students, which Coulson said would inevitably raise student achievement and help lower the district's costs by making it more frugal — instead of hiring more staff to oversee fewer students, as it has done.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit students need choice," July 27, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly with Detroit's Kids," July 2004

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit schools' shortfall worsens," June 29, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001
YPSILANTI, Mich. — A letter sent to Gov. Jennifer Granholm calls for the dismissal of Eastern Michigan University President Samuel Kirkpatrick and the replacement of other top officers at the institution.

The university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent the letter to Granholm after Kirkpatrick announced his intentions to resign over a recent construction scandal covering up millions of dollars in misappropriated student funds. A dismissal by Granholm would preclude Kirkpatrick from a $514,000 resignation package.

Such a request is unprecedented and necessary only because of the deception practiced by top university officials, said AAUP vice president Jim VandenBosch. "Sending a letter to the governor asking for the removal of the chair of our board is a radical new move for us, so we want to be somewhat circumspect about how we do this," he said.

Other officials the letter requests Granholm replace are Board of Regents Chairman Philip Incarnati and Paul Schollaert, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Ann Arbor News, "EMU faculty asks governor to step in," July 22, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-2/ 1090507279290000.xml

Administration officials suggest changes will be made to NCLB
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — An official with the U.S. Department of Education suggested last week that the federal government is cautiously considering changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

Eugene Hickok, the deputy secretary of education, told state lawmakers at the National Conference of State Legislatures that his administration is "looking at amendments" that would alter the ways states must comply with the expansive federal law, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

But Hickok said his organization is moving towards reforms to the law at a slow pace, because it is still in its infancy. "There are a lot of people who would like to open up the statute to destroy the statute," he said, which would deny any chance to see whether the law works.

The law has been in place for only two years, which is not enough time to determine the law's efficacy, said Hickock. "In education, we don't stick with anything," he said. "When it gets tough, we tend to back off."

Salt Lake Tribune, "Changes to No Child Law?" July 23, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Legislators across the country are devoting more time to comparing school choice programs, suggesting that the debate over choice has undergone a significant shift.

"Legislators once debated whether parents should be allowed to choose their child's school. Now they debate which form of school choice is best for parents and kids," said Joseph Lehman, a Mackinac Center for Public Policy vice president who addressed lawmakers last Tuesday at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

NCSL invited Columbia University researcher Clive Belfield, Florida Education Association official Marshall Ogletree, and Lehman to compare vouchers to tuition tax credits on their ability to overcome legal hurdles, promote fiscal soundness, and provide educational accountability.

Lehman, who believes tax credits can be more effective than vouchers, said the most effective choice programs are those available to all children, not just target groups identified by geography, income, or age.

Belfield explained that tax credit programs are typically freer of regulation than vouchers. Ogletree criticized Florida's limited choice programs that have attracted tens of thousands of parents.

"It is becoming less and less politically acceptable to oppose all forms of choice," Lehman said.

Salt Lake Tribune, "Panelists debate tuition tax credits vs. vouchers," July 2, 2004

Michigan Information Research Service, "Mackinac Center Pitches Tuition Tax Credits,"
July 20, 2004

Gongwer News Service, "School choice," July 21, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy speech, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which Is the Better Choice for School Choice?," July 20, 2004

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Federal Department of Education this summer is hosting a seven-city workshop targeted at educators to help teachers learn how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act affects them and their students.

The Department hired 50 veteran teachers to host seminars detailing the Act's accountability standards and how to effectively follow the new rules in the classroom. "We're trying to communicate the key parts of No Child Left Behind in a way teachers can use in the classroom," said Ren‚ Islas, special assistant to Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

Organizers for the tour said that the main purpose for the events is to dispel criticisms of the law that say the new accountability rules are unattainable by teachers. Teachers' unions lead criticism of the tour and the Act; California Teachers Association president Barbara Kerr called the tour an "insulting" gesture.

Los Angeles Times, "Teachers Get Lessons on No Child Left Behind," July 24, 2004
http://www.latimes.com/news/education/ la-me-topteach24jul24,1,4012882.story?coll=la-news-learning

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

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A study published earlier this year by the Birmingham-based Alabama Policy Institute reports that one in three high school graduates in that state lack basic reading, writing and math skills, costing taxpayers and businesses $541 million per year in remedial education shoring up graduates' basic skills.

The cost stems from an inability for the state's education system to teach basic skills to students who will eventually join the Alabama workforce, says the study. "If you can make sure those students learn what they should be learning in the beginning, by the time they graduate they will have basic skills they need and the state won't have to spend the money remediating them in college, creating more money for reading programs in the early age," said Christopher Hammons, an associate professor at Houston Baptist University, who performed the study.

A similar study conducted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that remedial education in Michigan costs taxpayers and business in the state over $600 million annually.

Birmingham Post-Herald, "Early basic education urged," June 28, 2004

Alabama Policy Institute, "The Cost of Remedial Education," April 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at

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