Contents of this issue:
  • Grand Rapids union to offer concessions to avoid privatization

  • Connecticut pledges to fight "No Child" rules in court

  • Traverse City school board spends $10,269 on laptops for members

  • Subcommittee chair pushes legislators for higher ed funding

  • Tutoring more attractive to parents than switching schools

  • Muskegon schools undertake advertising effort


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Representatives for the Michigan Education Association and its local affiliate appear prepared to offer concessions in contract negotiations to avoid the privatization of certain services, reported The Grand Rapids Press. The school district is considering privatization as part of an attempt to relieve an $18 million deficit.

According to The Press, Grand Rapids Superintendent Bert Bleke has proposed that the district privatize its bus drivers and night custodians, which could save the district $5 million. Though school board members were likely to approve the proposal, local union officials said they would offer contract concessions competitive with the potential savings offered by private companies before the vote took place on Monday. The district is also considering plans to lay off 90 teachers, 25 administrators and a number of support staff to help balance the budget.

Margaret Trimer-Hartley, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, said privatization in the Grand Rapids district would have a statewide impact. "If a large and high-profile district like Grand Rapids privatizes, it could hurt members all over," she told The Press.

Board President David Allen said the district would consider any concessions approaching the potential savings that privatization could bring. "I'm not saying it has to be there, but it has to be in the ballpark," he said.

Grand Rapids Press, "School union to offer concessions," April 14, 2005

Michigan Privatization Report, "East Lansing's Contract With the 'King of Clean,'" Winter 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Contract Out School Services Before Laying Off Teachers," Nov. 20, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Habit 2: Take Advantage of Cost Savings Through Outsourcing Non-Instructional Services," Dec. 3, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Privatization's Big Picture," Summer 1996

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal pledged this month to challenge the federal No Child Left Behind Act, while state officials planned to meet with Bush Administration officials yesterday to discuss the law, reported the Hartford Courant.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings agreed to meet with Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg to discuss Connecticut's objection to certain requirements of the federal law. Blumenthal said, "We need more than platitudes and pleasantries. ... We need funding and flexibility."

The federal Department of Education has in the past rejected requests from Connecticut officials to relieve the state of some of the law's requirements. According to the Courant, Spellings also publicly made a comment that was characterized as an insult to Connecticut's education policies. "It's offensive to me the level of name-calling coming out of Washington today when states voice legitimate concerns about the lack of funding," said state Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden.

If Connecticut moves forward with the lawsuit, it would mark the first state suit directly challenging the federal law. The National Education Association plans to file a similar suit next month, reported the Courant.

Hartford Courant, "No-Child" Case Draws Nationwide Interest," April 15, 2005,0,5267255.story?coll=hc-headlines-education

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

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

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Traverse City school board purchased laptops for its board members at a total cost of $10,269, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

The computers were purchased through a state program that receives bids from companies for technology purchases. Though the board "didn't sit down and do a penny-by-penny, cost-benefit analysis" of the necessity for laptops, the computers would reduce time spent on administrative functions, said Board President Gerald Morris. "Time is money, and you can't always put that into dollar terms," Morris added.

The purchase comes amid a district effort to reduce paperwork by using technology, according to the Record Eagle. The computers will remain the property of the district, and state law requires data stored on the computers to be treated as public record.

Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Board laptops cost district $10,269," April 14, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Schools prepare for the 'Digital Age,'" Winter 2001

LANSING, Mich. — State Rep. John Stewart, R-Plymouth, is using his position as chair of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee to push for increases in higher education funding while enforcing stringent rules of conduct in subcommittee meetings, raising the ire of some legislators.

According to the Lansing State Journal, Stewart has instituted strict rules for legislators in his subcommittee meetings, including bans on food, swearing and touching. Complaints from legislators about Stewart's rules have reached Appropriations Committee Chairman Scott Hummel, R-DeWitt.

Stewart has used his position to support increased funding for higher education, which would reduce the necessity for tuition increases. "Some university presidents say they like having a strong higher education advocate working on their budget," reported the Journal, "but some lawmakers want Stewart to tone it down."

Lansing State Journal, "State rep wants more funds for universities," April 18, 2005

Michigan Privatization Report, "Bringing the Market to the Ivory Tower," Winter 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Going Broke by Degree," September 2004

LANSING, Mich. — Data collected from state sources show that after-school tutoring mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is much more common than student transfers, reported Booth Newspapers.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools repeatedly failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress standards provide students with after-school tutoring programs or allow them to transfer to other schools. According to Booth, just 340 of 123,000 eligible students in Michigan changed schools, while 11,000 have taken advantage of after-school tutoring programs.

The requirement that failing schools allow students to transfer out was supposed to have encouraged those schools to improve rather than face the prospect of losing a large number of students, according to Yvonne Caamal Canul, director of the Office of School Improvement at the Michigan Department of Education. "I think many parents have chosen to stay where they think they are happy," she told Booth.

State data concerning tutoring services, the efficacy of such tutoring and the type of students taking advantage of the services are limited, noted Caamal Canul. "There's a lot we don't know about this, I wish we knew more. In a year, we'll have a better handle on it," she said.

Booth Newspapers, "Parents prefer tutoring to moving when local schools fall short," April 18, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "April 18: Another Day of Reckoning," April 2005

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

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

MUSKEGON, Mich. — In an effort to communicate with the public, the Muskegon Public Schools has begun an advertising campaign emphasizing several of the district's strong points, including multi-age classrooms and high school career academies.

Muskegon has lost more students than it has gained in recent years due to choice among school districts, a program which is "high stakes," according to Muskegon Superintendent Joseph Schulze. The newspaper ads cost nearly $3,000, approximately $4,000 less than the per-pupil funding in Muskegon.

According to The Muskegon Chronicle, districts in Muskegon County have both written and gentlemen's agreements limiting the type and focus of advertising during schools-of-choice campaigns. Montague Superintendent James Booth defended the ads as "a good advertisement saying 'We have quality schools and take a look at us before you go anywhere else.'" Muskegon Superintendent Schulze denied his district's advertising programs broke any agreements. "Some people felt that was crossing the boundary of advertising," he said. "That was not our intent. Our intent is to communicate to the public."

Muskegon Chronicle, "Schools vie for more students," April 16, 2005

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 exceeding 140,000 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: