Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit officials plan to close 34 schools this summer

  • Bush Administration requests lower federal education expenditures

  • Minnesota "merit pay" trial program seen as success

  • Gov. Granholm pushes for district consolidation, power to merge

  • College, university officials say proposed cuts breaks promise

  • Educators react to governor's proposed curriculum changes

DETROIT — To cut nearly $560 million in expenses over the next five years, officials with the Detroit Public Schools announced the district will close 34 schools this June and another 60 to 75 in the next three years.

According to the Detroit Free Press, district officials predict Detroit schools will lose 40,000 students in the next three years down to a total enrollment of 100,000. "We now have half as many students as we did in 1970 and nearly the same number of buildings," Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Burnley said. "From a cost standpoint, it doesn't make sense. With these school closings, our district will become more efficient and more effective."

According to the Free Press, the district has spent $26.7 million in the last five years on the schools that will close. The district faces problems which are unique to Detroit, said Henry Duval, director of communications for the Council of the Great City Schools. "We might be looking at sort of an anomaly, compared with other urban school districts," Duval said. "I don't think any other big-city school district is undergoing the problems that Detroit is having, on such a large scale."

Detroit Free Press, "In June, Detroit to shut down 34 schools," Feb. 11, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The $200 Million Question," January 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly With Detroit's Kids," July 15, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dancing Around Education: A 170-Year Waltz With Reform," December 11, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Ironic Choices," November 29, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001

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

PHOENIX — The Bush Administration asked for a reduction in the federal education budget by 0.9 percent, or half a billion dollars, which would amount to the first reduction in federal education spending in the last ten years, reported the Arizona Republic.

The budget would eliminate 48 federal education programs, which the administration said are not performing to federal standards or duplicate other government services, according to the Republic. The Perkins loan program, which provides low-interest loans to qualified college students, would be eliminated under the plan. The savings from the Perkins program would then be applied towards the Pell Grant program in an effort to raise the maximum grant by $100, to $4,150.

According to the Republic, savings from other program cuts would be funneled into a $1.5 billion increase for additional No Child Left Behind testing and accountability requirements and a 4.7 percent hike in Title I funding, among other increases.

Arizona Republic, "Bush wants education spending cuts," Feb. 8, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Teachers and education officials in some Minnesota school districts are finding that a "merit pay" system-in which teachers are partially paid on their performance in the classroom-is beneficial and effective, reported CNN.

In several Minnesota districts that have implemented merit pay programs, teachers can earn raises based on their students' performance and positive peer reviews. "Just rewarding people for having put in a lot of years, that's one of the things the public gets upset about — and justly so," said Kris Sandy, an English teacher in the La Crescent-Hokah, Minn. district. "In terms of having some more reasonable examples of what we do every year to improve our curriculum and be better teachers, that's perfectly reasonable."

Similar programs have been implemented in specific instances across the country, including successful programs in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Douglas County, Colo. However, proposed plans for merit pay programs have been scrapped in Cincinnati, Ohio and Steamboat Springs, Colo., due to problems in the evaluation system and high costs, respectively.

The National Education Association is "leery about losing the pay security of the traditional system," according to CNN. But these pilot programs seem to reflect a change in underlying political realities. "Ten years ago, if you were for performance pay, you were a nut. Now we can have a discussion about it with the unions in a very constructive, positive way," said Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

CNN, "Minnesota teachers warm to performance pay," Feb. 8, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality: How Do They Relate?" Spring 1999

Michigan Education Report, "Increase teachers' pay the right way," Early Fall 2000

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed ideas last week to consolidate school districts in an attempt to cut administrative costs by combining services and other district needs, reported the Ann Arbor News.

Granholm suggested that districts consider the benefits of merging, but would also like to hold the power to force districts to merge if the state believes such a move prudent, according to the News. "It's just something that the governor feels is necessary to drive efficiencies in our school districts, much like we've driven efficiencies in our state government by squeezing every last tax dollar by shutting off lights and not doing color copies," said Granholm spokeswoman Mary Dettloff.

Some district officials and legislators expressed hesitation at the idea of a full-scale merger between districts and suggested that they start saving money by combining administrative services. "When you get into a small town, and they have small schools, that school is kind of the hub of a community," said Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks. "To require them to consolidate, that's pretty difficult. I just don't think that's right at all."

According to the News, only one merger has been approved by voters since 1991, while nine such elections have taken place across the state.

Ann Arbor News, "Granholm: Join forces, save money," Feb. 13, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Districts: Is Less More?" July 2001

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

DETROIT — The Detroit News reported yesterday that some college and university officials are upset with proposed cuts in the governor's higher education budget, which they said breaks a promise made to increase funding for their institutions in exchange for caps on tuition increases.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who proposed a $30 million cut in higher education funding, noted that state colleges and universities will be able to access a $200 million bond issue for the next two years for maintenance and plant improvements. "This is not a broken promise," maintained Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd. "When they do the math, we think they will see they come out $70 million ahead. In tough budget times, there are very few areas that are seeing that kind of increase. If anything, we see this as a renewed commitment to higher education."

State officials have projected a $382 million deficit this year and a $772 million deficit next year, reported the Detroit News. "For our part, we knew that the governor's office would make every effort to not cut our funding, but given the dire circumstances of the state's finances, we anticipated this was likely to happen," George Cartsonis, director of communications for Oakland Community College, told the News.

Detroit News, "Educators: Granholm broke vow," Feb. 14, 2005

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

LANSING, Mich. — Some educators told the Lansing State Journal yesterday that proposed changes to the state's high school curriculum may be too ambitious for many students that would prefer career training to college preparation.

The changes proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm emphasize a college preparation curriculum, including four years of English, three years of math and science, over three years of social sciences and two years of a foreign language, according to the Journal. The plans are admirable, said some educators, but may place too much focus on college prep for those not choosing that path. "You need to have flexibility for those students who may not be going to a four-year college, but going to an apprenticeship," said Mark Palmer, principal of St. Johns High School near Lansing. "You have to have the flexibility to create a program that helps all students."

Chuck Wilbur, Granholm's deputy chief of staff for policy and planning, said vocational classes today require a stronger emphasis on the material covered in courses taken by college-bound students. "A factory job today is not the factory job of my father's time," said Wilbur. "You need a lot of technical, computer and math skills. A lot of what the governor is proposing would be helpful no matter where you ply your trade."

Gov. Granholm's proposal includes incentive payments to schools to encourage students to take courses in line with her curriculum guidelines beginning in 2006, reported the Journal, which is included in her $12.8 billion school aid proposal for next fiscal year. If accepted, the curriculum changes would be the first since 1995, according to Michigan Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley.

Lansing State Journal, "Educators question curriculum initiative," Feb. 14, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Declining Standards at Michigan Universities," November 1996

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "With Clear Eyes, Sincere Hearts and Open Minds," July 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "America's Scientific Leadership Imperiled by Weakened Curricula," August 2004

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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