Contents of this issue:
  • Michigan governor signs bills to replace high school MEAP tests

  • U.S. Senate committee endorses proposed education secretary

  • Michigan law creates bulk-purchasing program for schools

  • Congress alters Pell Grant distribution formula

  • Grand Rapids educators, parents investigate year-round schedule

HOUGHTON, Mich. — Gov. Jennifer Granholm approved legislation last week that will replace the high school Michigan Educational Assessment Program test battery for 11th graders with a type of college entrance exam and a test of workforce readiness. The change is slated to take effect in the 2006-2007 school year.

According to The Daily Mining Gazette, the new testing will be dubbed the "Michigan merit exam" and measure students' comprehension of English, math, reading, science and social studies, while including a component to measure students' career preparedness. The Gazette reported that the governor's office said the new exam would "help teachers ... identify the progress students still need to ensure success in college and the 21st century workplace."

Ontonagon High School Principal Leon Sutherland told the Gazette he thinks the new test will be beneficial to students already planning to take the ACT. "Your college-bound kids are going to take the ACT anyway, and this is a chance for them to get a practice run before having to pay for the ACT," he said.

Sutherland also argued the new exam might increase college attendance, telling the Gazette, "Some kids might do better on it than they thought and then consider college after all."

The Daily Mining Gazette, "State scraps high school MEAP test," Jan. 6, 2005, 2004 Senate Bills 1153, 1154, 1155, 1156, 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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Post reported that the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions unanimously recommended last week that the Senate confirm Margaret Spellings, 47, as the new U.S. secretary of education. Spellings served as chief domestic policy advisor to the Bush administration from 2000 to 2004. If confirmed by Congress, she would replace current U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige.

Both Republicans and Democrats, including ranking Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, were amiable toward the candidate during a committee hearing last week, The Post reported. Spellings outlined plans to implement without "horror stories" the No Child Left Behind Act, which was approved by Congress and President Bush in 2002. "We must stay true to the sound principles of leaving no child behind," Spellings said during the committee meeting, according to The Post. "But we in the administration must engage with those closest to children to embed these principles in a sensible and workable way."

The Washington Post, "Spellings Promises Fixes to No Child Left Behind Law," Jan. 7, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

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

LANSING, Mich. — Under legislation signed into law last week, local school districts, intermediate school districts, charter schools and nonpublic schools can now voluntarily participate in a statewide bulk-purchasing program to save money when buying goods and services.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed two bills related to the program on Jan. 3. The first empowered the state Department of Management and Budget to operate the bulk-purchasing program and receive fees from participants for "reasonable administrative expenses" for the program. The second bill exempted school districts and charter schools from a legal requirement to seek competitive bids for costly items whenever the schools use the bulk-purchasing program. (The bill also used a formulaic annual adjustment involving the consumer price index to raise to $17,932 the threshold at which districts are required to seek competitive bids.) "We're in a time where schools need the ability to get the most bang for their buck," Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, told The Saginaw News.

The Saginaw News, "Schools can join bulk-buying program," Jan. 8, 2005 1105183237232840.xml, 2004 House Bills 5875 and 5913

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

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

DETROIT — The Detroit News reported that under a federal law passed in 1992 requiring occasional revisions of the federal Pell Grant distribution formula, Congress last month authorized an alteration in the guidelines used to determine which students will receive federal Pell Grant money for college tuition. The changes will reduce or eliminate the subsidy for some students, including many in Michigan, but the aggregate number of students receiving Pell Grant aid may increase.

According to The News, students in Michigan currently receive a combined $340 million under the Pell Grant program, which provides tuition assistance to students from low-income families. Currently, 1.3 million students nationwide receive the funds, but grant formula updates will reduce or eliminate grant monies to students from less needy families. As many as 90,000 students nationwide could be disqualified from the program, said The News, while up to 75,000 in Michigan would experience reductions in, or elimination of, their Pell Grant assistance.

The News reported that the Pell Grant program has received a 42 percent increase in funding since the Clinton administration, from $8.8 billion to $12.4 billion. Nevertheless, the program is running a $4 billion debt.

The new formula uses economic data showing that Michigan residents have 4 percent more expendable income than they did 16 years ago due to state tax breaks. Michael Boulus, executive director of the President's Council of State Universities of Michigan, told The News: "Theoretically, the middle class and lower class have more in their pockets. That means more to pay for college."

U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, defended the formula change. "The facts are simple," he told The News. "It had to be done. What has changed is the distribution. You will find more low-income students will get them. Those with relatively higher incomes will get cut. The vast number will be helped."

Detroit News, "Feds slash college grants," Jan. 6, 2005

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

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Press reported that a committee of Grand Rapids parents and educators met last week with teachers and administrators from year-round schools in Milwaukee to discuss the academic merits of a year-round schedule.

In year-round schools, students attend classes for the same number of days as students in traditional schools do, but have a shorter summer break and longer breaks during the rest of the year. According to The Press, Milwaukee educators said the shorter summer break improves students' academics. Principal Martha Wheeler-Fair from Milwaukee said that students with a shorter summer break retain information better, reducing the need for subject review. Milwaukee currently has 10 year-round schools.

The Press reported that the local committee may recommend to the Grand Rapids Board of Education that Dickinson Elementary and Ottawa Hills Montessori Academy adopt a year-round schedule. The recommendation reportedly is planned for the school board's Jan. 18 meeting.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Panel looks at Milwaukee year-round classes," Jan. 5, 2005 110494721295350.xml

Michigan Education Report, "Public Schools Innovate as Charters Get Mixed Marks," Spring 1999

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

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

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