Contents of this issue:
  • Study finds California charters outperform conventional schools

  • State representative requests audit of Granholm's scholarship program

  • Political Action Committees seek influence over higher ed. policies

  • Coalition pushes for revisions in "Proposal A"

  • Employers, taxpayers paying for remedial education

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A study released last Wednesday found that charter schools in California have a 33 percent greater probability of meeting academic standards than that state's conventional public schools, according to the Associated Press.

The study, released by Palo Alto-based EdSource, a nonpartisan research organization, found that while just 54 percent of conventional public middle schools in California met state standards for student improvement, 81 percent of charter middle schools met those standards, reported the AP.

The findings also identified charter schools as more proficient in bringing students who are performing below grade-level standards up to speed academically, according to Caprice Young, CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. Charters "get kids who are far below grade level, and we bring them up faster than noncharter schools," Young told the AP.

Currently, over 180,000 students are enrolled in more than 500 charter schools in California, totaling about 3 percent of that state's total student population.

Yahoo News, "Charter Schools Outperform Public Schools," May 25, 2005

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000

DETROIT — The Associated Press reported that a state representative would ask Michigan's auditor general to investigate the disbursement of millions of dollars of public funds to a private scholarship program that was started by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

A March resolution by the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority allowed the private Great Lakes Great Hopes scholarship organization to use nearly half of MHEAA's $21.4 million operating fund, a move that one lawmaker said could violate state accountability rules. State Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, told the AP that he would like Auditor General Thomas McTavish to investigate the disbursement. "We're asking, 'Can we use those dollars in that way?'" Kooiman said.

State Department of Education spokesman Terry Stanton said the resolution should have specifically allowed the scholarship entity to purchase $10 million in prepaid tuition contracts instead of the general authorization enacted in March. "There is an oopsy," Stanton told the AP. "It was a clerical error that should not have been there." The Authority will meet next month to alter its original resolution, he said.

The Detroit News, "Lawmaker wants Granholm's scholarship program audited," May 27, 2005

WNDU, "Audit of Granholm scholarship program," May 26, 2005

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

DETROIT — Friends, employees and other supporters of Michigan colleges and universities have formed Political Action Committees to influence higher education policies; activities of these PACs include contributions to politicians' campaign funds, according to a Detroit News report.

Independent groups have formed PACs in support of Ferris State, Western Michigan and Michigan State Universities, and have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the campaign funds of state politicians in an effort to keep their favored candidates in office. The universities benefit from the politicking, said Richard Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a watchdog group. "They're like any business," Robinson said. "You do what you can. They realize you've got to play the game the way it's set up."

According to Detroit News figures, Gov. Jennifer Granholm has received over $20,000 from such PACs, and state Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, has received about $26,000 from the groups. The groups also donate tens of thousands of dollars to political party campaign funds. "Whether you're a for-profit or a not-for-profit, you've got issues in Lansing," said Michael Boulus, director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, which represents all of Michigan's public universities.

The Detroit News, "Universities' allies lobby lawmakers," May 27, 2005

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

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

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Privatize the University of Michigan," March 2004

LANSING, Mich. — A coalition composed of teachers unions and other state education organizations has called for revisions in Michigan's 1994 constitutional amendment known as "Proposal A," saying the current funding formula for K-12 education under that law is inadequate, reported Booth Newspapers.

Tom White, leader of the K-16 Coalition and executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials association, said the group, with its planned June 21 rally in Lansing, wants legislators to look seriously at changing the law. "Our sense has been that there hasn't been a willingness on the part of the Legislature to really talk about changes. We hope we can get their attention and we hope we can get them engaged," White said.

But some state leaders, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm and some GOP lawmakers said the current state budget appropriately prioritizes K-12 education and there is no extra money to appropriate. Additionally, state superintendent Mike Flanagan told Booth that schools must address cutting overhead costs such as healthcare if new taxes are to be considered. "Any kind of revenue increase has to be tied into purposeful cost-containment at the same time," Flanagan said.

Booth Newspapers, "Groups call for Prop A update," May 30, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Proposal A,' 10 Years Later," February 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding, Proposal A, and Property Taxes," November 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Proposal A provided more money, but better management needed," Fall 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Finance Reform Lessons from Michigan," October 2001

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

DETROIT — Businesses and taxpayers foot the bill for remedial education for students that fail to graduate from high school or meet employment requirements after receiving their GED, according to a Detroit News special report.

A $3.5 million training center built by automotive supplier Dave Bing and Ford Motor Co. helps train employees referred by Detroit's Workforce Development Department who require remedial education. "We literally have to teach decimals, fractions and percentages," said George Stevenson, who directs the training center. "You need that to use the various measuring devices." Taxpayers pay an estimated $1,000 per student for the training, according to The News.

Linda Kinney, executive director of Michigan Works! Association, said businesses are concerned that their new hires show little work ethic or lack basic skills necessary for their jobs. "They are saying, 'What's broken with the system?'" Kinney told The News. "'Why am I having to teach people how to read and write?'"

Bing has expressed interest in opening a charter high school near his business in partnership with philanthropist Bob Thompson.

The Detroit News, "Businesses are forced to teach the basics," May 29, 2005

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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