Contents of this issue:
  • Michigan Senate may propose financial manager for Detroit schools

  • International student enrollment drops at U.S. universities

  • Congress votes to tighten qualifications for Pell Grants

  • Oakland intermediate district may cut International Academy subsidy

  • Reasons for home-schooling increasingly diverse

  • Massachusetts officials may simplify teacher certification rules

DETROIT — Michigan Senate leaders may begin a legal process this week that could result in the appointment of a state emergency financial manager to oversee the Detroit Public Schools, the Detroit Free Press has reported.

The Detroit school district is facing a two-year total budget deficit of $198 million, according to projections that the district released earlier this month. Republican lawmakers in the state Senate say they will introduce a resolution that asks state Superintendent Tom Watkins to assess the district's financial status.

Such a review could lay the groundwork under state law for appointing an emergency financial manager for the district. This manager would be given broad discretion to cut spending and personnel in order to balance the district's budget.

The only school district to receive a state-appointed financial manager under this emergency provision is Inkster. The Inkster district is now in its third year of state financial management.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has expressed skepticism about the Senate proposal, according to the Free Press. She has issued a statement indicating that Detroit already "has an emergency financial manager" in district CEO Kenneth Burnley.

Watkins said that the state Department of Education might lend its support to the district's proposal of a $200 million bond sale to temporarily cover expenses. The bond sale would require the state Legislature's approval, however. A spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema told the Free Press that it "is not likely [Senate leaders] are going to allow Detroit to borrow their way out of this problem."

Detroit Free Press, "Senate eyes school emergency," Nov. 24, 2004

Detroit News, "State leaders to meet about Detroit schools," Nov. 28, 2004

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

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

BOSTON — The Christian Science Monitor has reported that U.S. colleges and universities last year experienced the first decline since 1971 in the number of foreign students enrolled.

Experts gave several reasons for the decrease: federal government delays in processing visas for foreign students; a slow U.S. economy; and increased competition from higher education institutions elsewhere in the world, especially those in English-speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada and Britain. "Competition is out there, and that's not just a phenomenon that's part of the post-9/11 period; that started well before, and I think we were a little bit asleep at the wheel because the U.S. had been so dominant as a destination for international students," Ursula Oaks, a spokeswoman for NAFSA: Association of International Educators, told the Monitor.

Even as several English-speaking countries have enjoyed noticeably increased foreign enrollment in the past few years, foreign enrollment in American higher education institutions was down 2.4 percent in the 2003-2004 school year, including a decline of 5 percent in foreign undergraduates. Boston University Associate Provost John Ebersole told the Monitor that to counter this trend, "We need to be thinking about a major PR effort to convince international graduate students that they are welcome here and that it's not as difficult to get a visa as maybe it was a year or two ago."

Christian Science Monitor, "Foreign enrollment drops at U.S. colleges," Nov. 16, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Immigration and Open Borders," November 1997

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

DETROIT — An omnibus spending bill awaiting approval by President Bush would freeze the maximum per-student Pell Grant disbursement for the third consecutive year and introduce rule changes reducing the amount of money given to students using the program to finance their college or university education, according to The Detroit News.

The maximum Pell Grant award would be $4,050 under the spending bill. The News cited Brian Fitzgerald, staff director for the congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, as estimating that revisions to the Pell Grant qualifications process may reduce federal grants by about $300 for up to one million students and remove an additional 90,000 students from the grant rolls entirely.

The $12.4 billion Pell Grant program suffers from a $4 billion total shortfall, according to congressional Republicans, and the rule changes under the proposed law would save the program $300 million. At the same time, greater overall demand for the program's funds would increase Pell disbursements under the proposal by $458 million. Fitzgerald estimated that the number of students given Pell Grant monies has increased 19 percent in the last two years, to roughly 5 million students.

Detroit News, "Congress curbs Pell Grants," Nov. 24, 2004

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

DETROIT — In order to reduce its budget, The Oakland intermediate school district may cut a subsidy to less wealthy school districts that participate in the area's well-known International Academy, according to The Detroit News.

Bloomfield Hills-based International Academy is a public high school serving students in 11 Oakland County-area school districts and offers the International Baccalaureate program to its students. The Oakland intermediate district provides an annual $35,000 subsidy to four school districts where per-pupil funding is less than the $7,500 cost of attending the Academy. In addition, the Academy plans to open a second campus, which would require a subsidy of more than $200,000 from the Oakland intermediate district.

International Academy founder and Principal Bert Okma told the News that the Oakland intermediate district's funding was important, and that the school might search elsewhere for assistance: "We're looking at other forms of support. It would be possible that we would make a funding initiative to the private sector."

Detroit News, "Oakland Schools may cut subsidy," Nov. 23, 2004

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

ST. LOUIS — Parents are home-schooling their children for increasingly diverse reasons, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Traci Hodges, a part-time consultant and business manager, told the Post-Dispatch that she chose to home-school her daughter for both moral and instructional reasons. According to the Post-Dispatch, Hodges does not have "ultra-conservative moral and religious values" or "a fierce belief in the right to keep government" out of her life, and she shares responsibility for educating her daughter with her husband, who is an emergency room doctor.

Hodges had to overcome inhibitions before reaching out to other home-schooling families. "Everyone has their preconceived notions of what a home-school parent is like," Hodges told the Post-Dispatch. "But then you learn that they come from all walks of life."

Other parents choose home-schooling because their child can receive more individualized attention than is available at traditional schools. "The teachers in the public schools are becoming very, very swamped with a lot of paperwork and dealing with special-needs kids who are being added to the classroom," said Nancy Schaaf, executive director of the Dayspring Centre for Arts and Education in Maryland Heights, Mo. Schaaf said that this problem precluded her son from receiving the best possible education. "My child was going to school for seven hours a day and not getting any attention. He was losing his excitement for learning," she told the Post-Dispatch.

The federal government's National Center for Education Statistics estimates that about 1.1 million children nationwide were home-schooled last year. The National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore., calculates that home-schooling has increased about 7 percent annually for the last four years.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Home schooling is attracting mainstream families," Nov. 28, 2004
http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/education/story/ 324DBB26891133ED86256F5B00155C5B? OpenDocument&Headline=Home+schooling+is+attracting+mainstream+families

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

BOSTON — According to a report in The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll said last week that Massachusetts must streamline its teacher certification rules in order to maintain its current workforce, which is facing an imminent decline. Driscoll told the Massachusetts Board of Education that nearly 40 percent of the state's teachers may retire within the next five years. To alleviate the problem, "We should be offering incentives, not barriers," he said, according to The Globe.

Revisions to state education programs have made teacher licensing rules more complex in the past 10 years, the Globe reported. This complexity led two board members to request more time to understand proposed changes to the system, and the board postponed voting on the issue until December.

"You should be able to tell someone in 10 minutes what they need to do to become a teacher. And that's not happening now," Anne Wass, vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, told the Globe. "People are confused, and they don't get the answers. The system is so difficult to navigate that it has really become a barrier to recruit new teachers, especially those changing careers midlife."

Boston Globe, "Simpler rules eyed for teacher licensing," Nov. 24, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Must Teachers Be Certified to Be Qualified?" February 1999

Michigan Education Report, "Subject matter courses should drive a teacher's schooling," Spring 2002

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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