Contents of this issue:
  • Pledge of Allegiance bill passes state Senate committee

  • More Detroit parents choose charters, fill enrollment capacity

  • Gaylord, Vanderbilt districts discuss annexation

  • Proposals aim to allow governor to select state superintendent

  • Audit finds school officials embezzled $11.2 million

  • Granholm promises curriculum reform at meeting in Washington, D.C.

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Education Committee last week unanimously approved a bill that would require Michigan public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day, reported Booth Newspapers.

The bill includes language making it impossible for a school to compel any student to say the pledge if they refuse, according to a description on, a Web site providing neutral summaries of proposed legislation. Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, said the recitation would be a patriotic reminder to students. "We have a great deal to be thankful for," Birkholz said. "It's a 30-second reminder of the founding of our country and what our country stands for today."

But attorney Brad Banasik, a representative for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said most schools already allow for a daily recitation of the pledge and that the legislation is unnecessary. "We're never in favor of the Legislature handing a school district a new mandate," Banasik told Booth. "Clearly, we think that's a local decision."

Booth Newspapers, "Senate panel OKs Pledge of Allegiance mandate for schools," Mar. 4, 2005, 2005 Senate Bill 72

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — The amount of interest in Metro Detroit charter schools has skyrocketed in the wake of a recent announcement by the Detroit school district that it intends to close 33 schools this summer, reported the Detroit News.

Officials at Metro Detroit charter schools say enrollment is nearly at capacity and few schools will be able to significantly expand their facilities by the start of the next school year, according to the News. Additionally, many charters lack the space to expand and accept all interested students. "We don't have any space," said Jessie Kilgore Jr., an administrator for the Plymouth Educational Center in Detroit. "People are probably going to put applications in at multiple places, playing the lottery game."

According to the News, about 3,400 students left the Detroit district in favor of charter schools, but charter expansion will be limited this year, as the number of schools opening next fall is expected to be less than in past years. "Demand is very high because I think parents are looking for schools that are safe, customer friendly and rigorous ... now add to that, stable," said University Preparatory Academy Superintendent Doug Ross, reported the News.

Detroit News, "More parents pull kids out of Detroit schools, try charters," Mar. 4, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Government Encouragement," February 2005

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

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

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When Will Conventional Public Schools Be As Accountable as Charters?" July 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002

GAYLORD, Mich. — District officials from Gaylord Community Schools and Vanderbilt Area Schools were to meet last Wednesday to discuss the possibility of annexation in an effort to save the districts money and relieve financial stress, reported the Gaylord Herald-Times.

Officials said the closed meeting would be purely for informational purposes and would not make any official decisions. "This is just investigatory. There is no commitment attached at all," explained Gaylord Board Secretary Ernie Grocock. "This is about what's best for the children in Vanderbilt — not the parents; not the taxpayers; but about the children in Vanderbilt."

Vanderbilt Superintendent Ellen Bonter said annexation is only one possibility to alleviate financial problems in the district; district officials have also discussed the possibility of a sinking fund millage. "We need to explore all of our options and I think these discussions are the avenue we need to help answer questions such as the pros and cons of using a millage to raise revenues," Bonter told the Herald-Times.

The Vanderbilt district plans a series of public forums in the next several weeks to discuss its options.

Gaylord Herald-Times, "Schools explore annexation," Mar. 2, 2005

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

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

HOLLAND, Mich. — Legislators in the state House and Senate have introduced proposals to amend the Michigan Constitution to give the governor the power to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction, reported the Holland Sentinel.

A public disagreement over the future of reform in Michigan schools between former Superintendent Tom Watkins and Gov. Jennifer Granholm earlier this year led some legislators to devise what they say is a more efficient way to run the state education system, according to the Sentinel. "The governor has very little say," noted Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. "The time has come for us to re-evaluate that."

Critics of the plans include many Democrats in the Legislature and members of the State Board of Education, which currently holds the power to appoint the superintendent. Republican Board Member Nancy Danhof said that by removing the board's power to appoint the state schools chief, "There's no way to hold (the superintendent) accountable."

An amendment to the state constitution would require a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers and a majority approval of Michigan voters.

Holland Sentinel, "Legislators debate letting governor pick schools chief," Mar. 7, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Lansing Must Embrace Basic Reform Following the Watkins Debacle," January 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Watkins Gets It Right," January 2005

NEW YORK — State auditors uncovered an embezzlement scheme in a Long Island school district last year, through which district officials allegedly misappropriated a total of $11.2 million since 1996, according to a report in the Detroit News.

Several employees of the Roslyn school district allegedly spent district funds on such items as Concorde plane tickets, bills for personal BMW and Jaguar vehicles, mortgage payments, a Rolex watch, and over $1 million in cash advances, according to the audit. "Certain senior officials with the keys to the cash register went on a spending spree of massive proportions," said New York State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi. "The variety of methods used was breathtaking."

The Associated Press reported that the superintendent and two other district employees were arrested last year in connection with the missing funds and are currently awaiting trial. Hevesi has referred 26 people who were connected with benefits from the alleged embezzlement to the District Attorney's office.

Detroit News, "Audit: School employees embezzled $11.2M," Mar. 2, 2005

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

Michigan Education Report, "Financial scandals exposed in Michigan school districts," Fall 2002

DETROIT — Gov. Jennifer Granholm last month promised, along with officials from 12 other states, to reform high school curriculum standards to better prepare students for higher education and the workforce, reported the Detroit Free Press.

Granholm and other state leaders met to endorse and agree to the American Diploma Project, which urges member states to require that all high school students take rigorous math and English courses. "This is the biggest step states can take to restore the value of the high school diploma," said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, co-chair of Achieve, Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit that works to help states raise educational standards.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Granholm, said many of the plans decided by Achieve and the member states were similar to recommendations made in the December, 2004 report by the Michigan Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth. Michigan's high schools "really need to be preparing students for the jobs of the 21st Century," Boyd told the Free Press. "We need to be expecting more of students, not less, regardless of what type of work they're going to be pursuing."

Detroit Free Press, "Granholm promises to reform education," Feb. 28, 2005

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000

Michigan Privatization Report, "The 'Privatized' Cost of Remedial Education in Michigan," August 2000

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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