Contents of this issue:
  • Federal court rules female sports schedule discriminatory

  • Parents paying for after-school activities amidst budget cuts

  • Homeschooling in Britain on the rise

  • Parents hold back students for athletic gain

  • Court strikes down Seattle race-based school assignments

  • Study: Fear of violence in schools leads to increased truancy

  • Michigan Supreme Court rules sports association not public entity

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week declared the high school sports season discriminatory against females in some sports, a move that may force the Michigan High School Athletic Association to realign schedules beginning in 2005.

The suit against the MHSAA, originally filed in 1998, claimed that Michigan's female high schoolers were harmed in college recruitment and scholarship opportunities because their basketball and volleyball seasons are the opposite of collegiate seasons. State Superintendent Tom Watkins, who also holds one of 19 seats on the MHSAA governing council, wrote in a letter to the council that "the time is long past when MHSAA policies--the only ones of their kind in the nation--can stand in the way of many young women getting equal access to college athletic scholarship opportunities."

Officials with the MHSAA say that the claim of discrimination is unfounded because Michigan ranks sixth nationwide in the number of basketball scholarships granted to female high school athletes and fifth or sixth in volleyball scholarships. The council meets tomorrow to decide whether the MHSAA will appeal the Circuit Court decision. "Most of the feedback we've gotten from members tells us to fight on," MHSAA spokesman John Johnson said.

Detroit Free Press, "MHSAA board to consider options in gender equity suit," Aug. 2, 2004

Michigan High School Athletic Association, "MHSAA Statement On Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision In Sports Seasons Case," July 27, 2004

DETROIT, Mich. — Districts around the state are increasingly cutting funding for after-school programs and moving towards a "pay-to-play" system, where parents pick up the financial slack.

Individual districts can choose which programs to cut, ranging from sports programs to band and drama clubs. Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, told the Detroit News that the problem stems from the passage of Proposal A in 1994, which shifted a portion of school funding from local to state taxes, among other sources. "Schools have been forced to tighten their belts, with even the wealthier districts having problems," he said.

Many schools increased funding for extracurricular programs and activities after per-pupil state education moneys increased by 50 percent in the seven years after the passage of Proposal A. The recent downturn in state tax receipts, however, has forced schools to reconsider these programs.

Tom White, director of Lansing-based Michigan School Business Officials, said he conducted an informal poll of school districts around the state and found that 32 percent of districts would consider raising fees for after-school activities.

Detroit News, "Budget cuts force families to pay for extra activities," Aug. 3, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding, Proposal A, and Property Taxes,"
November 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Proposal A provided more money, but better management needed," Fall 2001

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

LONDON, England — Homeschool advocates in England report that more parents than ever are opting out of the traditional school system and turning to home-based education.

According to Education Otherwise, a homeschool advocacy group for parents and students around the country, more than 100 students per month have been joining its ranks. A recent article in the Guardian reported that 25,000 to 150,000 children are homeschooled in England, for varying reasons. "I don't think that people take on home educating lightly," said Belinda Harris Reed, a parent of two homeschooled children and a member of Education Otherwise. "Now most people take their children out of school because of bullying — not, like me, for a philosophical viewpoint."

The shift toward home-based education has brought opposition from several groups, including the Professional Association of Teachers, which called on the government "as a matter of urgency" to increase its oversight of homeschoolers. The government has not yet decided whether it will do so, but a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills told the Guardian, "We believe that for most children school is the right place in which to receive education. However, parents have the right to educate their children at home if they so wish."

The Guardian, "More parents choose to educate children at home," July 30, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Home Schoolers Make Case for School Choice," May 2002

Michigan Education Report, "Home schooling works, study finds," Aug. 15, 1999

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Parents and school administrators report that an increasing number of students are held back by their parents to gain a competitive edge in sports, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Though no official data exist on the phenomenon, many parents said the practice has been occurring quietly for decades. The issue received exposure in Texas during the 1980s, said education officials there, after they noticed a substantial increase in the number of parents holding their children back. "There was almost an entire class of youngsters held back in one of our schools," said Bill Farney, director of the University Interscholastic League in Texas. "All the kids repeated seventh grade," he said. "It was a collective decision on the part of the parents. They just sort of decided together."

With the exception of Texas, there have been no inquiries into the practice, which many parents see as an acceptable strategy; many students held back for competitive reasons play varsity throughout high school and go on to compete in college. "I never saw the negative," said Jim Clausen, father of three children who excelled in high school sports. "We thought it was important for our kids to be leaders instead of followers."

Los Angeles Times, "Held Back to Get Ahead," July 29, 2004
http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-sp-redshirt29jul29,1,2033039.story ?coll=la-news-learning

SEATTLE, Wash. — A federal appeals court last week struck down by a vote of 2-1 the Seattle school district's race-based school assignment system, citing last year's Supreme Court ruling against the University of Michigan's "points" system, which favored certain races.

Though decisions systems that consider race are still legal, these systems must pass a "narrow tailoring" test that focuses on race-neutral factors, such as academic performance and economic background. The Seattle district's system "reveal[s] an unadulterated pursuit of racial proportionality that cannot possibly be squared with the demands of the Equal Protection Clause," according to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals majority opinion.

The Seattle system, in place since the 2000-2001 school year, used race as a deciding factor in assigning children to schools that were overenrolled and deviated more than 15 percent from the district's average proportion of white and minority students. Though the court characterized the district's attempt at diversity as laudable, it stressed that using race as a deciding factor was in violation of constitutional principles.

Seattle Times, "Seattle schools' racial tiebreaker ruled improper," July 28, 2004
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/ 2001990649_skuls28m.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Is Affirmative Action the Right Fight?" June 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that although incidents of violence in schools decreased in the last 12 years, the number of students skipping school to avoid violence has increased.

Using a survey of students taken biannually from 1991 to 2003, the CDC analyzed subgroups of students by sex, race and age to determine its aggregate results. Accordingly, the CDC found that in 1991, 4.4 percent of students said they had skipped at least one day of school out of fear of violence, compared to 5.4 percent in 2003, a statistically significant increase. The number peaked in 2001 at 6.6 percent.

The percentage of students reporting they had been in a fight dropped from 42.5 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2003. Fewer students reported carrying a weapon onto school property in the same time period, but the number of students indicating they had been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property increased by 1.5 percentage points.

The Associated Press, "Truancy Due to Fear Rises, Study Finds," July 30, 2004

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Violence-Related Behaviors Among High School Students, 1991 to 2003," July 30, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "'Zero-tolerance' policies aim to reduce school violence," Fall 2001

LANSING, Mich. — In the third ruling on the subject, a five-member majority of the Michigan Supreme Court found that the Michigan High School Athletic Association is not a public entity, precluding it from requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

An earlier decision by a state circuit court found that the MHSAA is a public entity and therefore subject to FOIA's transparency rules. However, a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling overturned the circuit court's finding and was upheld in the Supreme Court case.

The case stems from a MHSAA ruling that disqualified a high school student from entering a MHSAA-sanctioned ski race. The student's family then requested a copy of the rule from the organization under the FOIA statutes, but was denied access to it.

According to the Supreme Court majority, 90 percent of the organization's funding comes from nonpublic sources, namely gate receipts at school sporting events. Because the majority of funding is not from the state, the court ruled that the MHSAA is not a public body and therefore does not have to submit to information requests under FOIA.

Traverse City Record Eagle, "MHSAA ruled private entity," Aug. 1, 2004

Michigan Supreme Court Opinion, "Martin B. Breighner III V. Michigan High School Athletic Association," July 29, 2004
http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/documents/OPINIONS/FINAL/SCT/ 20040729_S123529_53_breighner11mar04_op.pdf

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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