Contents of this issue:
  • U.S. Secretary of Education resigns post

  • Editorial: Warren school board decision saves taxpayers money

  • Southfield district employees approve three-year contract

  • State Senate votes to replace MEAP with college admissions exam

  • Original authors of 'Proposal A' review their handiwork

  • Detroit to close schools, cut jobs due to lower enrollment

  • State House Education Committee pulls secession bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige resigned last week, putting a tentative January end date on a four-year tenure that oversaw some of the largest changes ever made to the federal government's role in the nation's education system.

CNN called Paige "the public face of the No Child Left Behind Act," the 2002 law that was the centerpiece of the Bush administration's education agenda. It mandated adoption of state standardized testing, school evaluations and student achievement goals to improve education nationwide. In a statement yesterday, Paige summed up the act's progress with the observation, "No Child Left Behind is indelibly launched. A culture of accountability is gripping the American educational landscape."

Paige stated he would like to leave next January, at the end of the president's first term, to pursue a "personal project" he did not detail. Yesterday, he commented: "At the end of the president's first term, I will have served longer than any Republican United States Secretary of Education. At that time, my work here will be accomplished."

CNN, "Paige term defined by 'No Child Left Behind,'" Nov. 15, 2004

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

DETROIT — A Detroit News editorial last week praised the school board of the Warren Consolidated Schools for a decision that would save taxpayers and the district money.

The decision not to finance freshman baseball and softball teams at the district's three high schools was laudable, said the News. The programs would have cost the district $50,000 from its general operations fund, straining the district's finances. "Adding unnecessary programs in uncertain times does not make sense, financial or otherwise," the News argued.

"Sports are valuable," the News added, but, "in the final analysis they are not central to the primary role of public education — which is teaching academics." The editorial called the decision "a prudent call" in light of an ongoing review of the school district's sports programs.

Detroit News, "Warren School Board Gives Taxpayers a Break," Nov. 11, 2004

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

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

DETROIT — Teachers and support workers at the Southfield Public Schools last Tuesday approved a three-year contract some classify as the most conservative contract their unions have agreed to in years, according to The Detroit News.

The contract includes a 1.5 percent annual pay raise and reduced health benefits for about 1,200 district employees. Teacher Elenore Glass told the News she was pleased the contract passed muster with the union. "I'm glad they don't have to go back to the drawing board," she said. "We are living in really challenging times. People are downsizing and that has to be taken into consideration."

School board spokesman Ken Siver said the board is expected to approve the contract. The last contract expired Aug. 12, 2003, and this contract would be retroactive to that date. Details of the agreement are not yet available to the public.

"We could not offer the same salary and benefit packages as before," Board President Paul Cooper told The News. "This is certainly precedent-setting; it's a conservative contract."

Detroit News, "Southfield teachers OK 3-year contract," Nov. 10, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," August 1998

Michigan Privatization Report, "Ensuring Insurance Competition," September 1998

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate voted 35-1 last week to replace the current battery of high school Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests with nationally recognized college admissions tests, Booth Newspapers reported.

The five-bill legislative package would, if approved by the state House, replace the MEAP high school testing system with a college admissions or vocational aptitude test, such as the SAT, ACT or ACT WorkKeys tests. The new regime would also include a test of certain science and social studies subjects that those exams do not cover.

Proponents of the bills, including Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, said the proposal would help students, who currently must take the MEAP tests even if they are also taking college admissions tests. "Students should be happy. They don't have to sit down for two tests. They can sit down for one test that means something to them," Ballard told Booth Newspapers.

The new regimen would take only six hours, compared to the MEAP's 11-hour program. The state would cover the testing fee of $40 to $45 per student for the admissions exams. The state Senate Fiscal Agency estimates the cost of the new program at $10 million, which is about $1.5 million more than the high school MEAP examinations currently cost.

The state House has until Dec. 31 to take up the bills. Booth reports that Gov. Jennifer Granholm is likely to sign the legislation if it reaches her desk.

Booth Newspapers, "Senate votes to dump high school MEAP," Nov. 11, 2004, 2004 Senate Bills 1153, 1154, 1155, 1156, and 1157

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

BRIGHTON, Mich. — Twelve of the 14 state legislators who authored 'Proposal A,' which was approved by Michigan voters in 1994, have been meeting for months to review the law to see if changes are necessary, reported the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus last week.

Proposal A immediately reduced the property tax burden around the state, earmarked part of the state sales tax for education funding and limited the rate of increase in property tax assessments. Of the original 14 authors of the proposal, according to the Daily Press & Argus, one has died and another has moved out of state.

Susan Grimes Munsell, a Republican from Howell who served in the Michigan Legislature from 1987 to 1996, is a member of the group reviewing the proposal. She said one reason for the review is the number of complaints from school districts about a lack of funding. "We want to see what's causing it," Munsell told the Daily Press & Argus.

Michigan Prospect, a nonprofit think tank that is described as "progressive" by its executive director, Lynn Jondahl, is funding research for the review. Jondahl said his institution, which is financed by several unions, will not attempt to influence the research. "We're not going to meddle in terms of the output," he said. Jondahl, an Okemos Democrat, was also one of the original 14 authors of the proposal.

Two researchers from Wayne State University are part of the effort. The group hopes to present its findings and recommendations to the state Legislature next spring.

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Proposal A receives review by its authors," Nov. 12, 2004 pageType=Story&StoryID=65494&Section=Page%201&OnlineSection=Page%201 &SectionPubDate=Thursday,%20November%2011,%202004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Proposal A,' 10 Years Later," February 2004

DETROIT — Officials for the Detroit Public Schools said last week that a severe drop in enrollment this year would necessitate cost-cutting measures, including closing schools and laying off staff, according to the Detroit Free Press. A subsequent announcement reported this week in the Free Press suggests that 4,000 employees and up to 40 schools could be affected.

Pupil counts this fall showed 140,716 students in the Detroit system, a decrease of 9,307 students from last year and the highest one-year loss in a decade. Because of the decline, the Detroit district will receive $66.8 million less in state aid than it did last year, a financial loss that is about $24 million more than the $42 million reduction the district had projected.

The district has decreased its employment by about 2,100 jobs — roughly 10 percent — since spring in an effort to cut money from its budget. The additional 4,000 jobs to be eliminated will include about 150 teaching positions during this school year, though this number may be reached through early retirements, rather than layoffs, Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison told the Free Press. The district will announce in January which of its 255 schools will be closed.

Some attribute the enrollment declines to charter schools and expanded school choice in and around the Detroit area. Doug Ross, principal of a charter school in Detroit known as the University Preparatory Academy, said parents place their students in charters mainly because, "They're looking for an environment that is safe, customer-friendly and where they perceive there is the chance their child's education is going to improve." In contrast, the Detroit city schools are "perceived as falling deeper and deeper into chaos," Ross told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit to close more schools, cut more jobs," Nov. 10, 2004

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit schools to lose 4,000 jobs to red ink," Nov. 16, 2004

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Finance Reform Lessons from Michigan," October 12, 2001

PONTIAC, Mich. — The Oakland Press reported that the state House Education Committee last week pulled a bill that would have allowed municipalities that were spread across several school districts to secede from one district and join an adjacent one.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Shelley Goodman Taub, a Republican from Bloomfield Hills. Under the proposal, a community could have seceded from a district if 80 percent of its electorate had approved and if the school board in the district that the community wanted to join had agreed as well. Student transfers would have been limited to 125.

Opponents of the bill said the measure would have permitted wealthy communities to leave districts like Pontiac or Southfield, where more minorities are enrolled. "For the benefit of a few people, it would ruin school districts across the state," said Rep. Clarence Phillips, a Pontiac Democrat.

Taub countered that the legislation would have made it easier for bond issues in the Pontiac school district to pass. In 2003, 92 percent of residents outside of the city of Pontiac voted against a $455 million bond issue for the district. "It's a double-edged sword," Taub told the Press. "Everybody is losing."

Oakland Press, "Bill to allow switching of school districts pulled," Nov. 10, 2004

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling," January 2001

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 or unsubscribe, go to: