Contents of this issue:
  • Legislature looks to register home school students with state
  • MEAP scores up in some areas, down in others
  • Some Bridgeport parents lash out against schools of choice
  • Pinckney schools consider contracting for janitorial services
  • Flint schools look to close buildings, cut jobs
  • Comment and win an iPod

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Home-school parents and organizations are opposing a bill that would require the reporting of the names, addresses and ages of all home-schooled children to a local or intermediate school district each year, according to the Grand Valley Advance.

Ron Koehler, Kent Intermediate School District's assistant superintendent for organizational and community initiatives, thinks having the information would be beneficial for parents and make it easier for the ISD to contact parents about special programs and classes. Currently, home-school reporting is voluntary, the Advance reported.

"They're still our students and families," Koehler told the Advance. "We would encourage those that are not registering voluntarily, to do so." Still, he said the KISD is not actively pushing the proposed bill.

Koehler also added that the ISD will probably not address the legislation, noting the generally positive relationship the ISD has with home-schoolers already.

"Unless we're specifically asked, we probably would not address this legislation," Koehler told the Advance. "We've developed a better relationship with our home-school families. We don't want to do anything to roll back the clock."

Many home-school families and organizations are threatened by the legislation.

"The public school establishment doesn't like home schools," Dennis Smith, executive director of Information Network for Christian Homes, told the Advance. "The information provided (by parents) could be used against us in the future. This happened in the past when home-schoolers were requested to fill out a non-public school report form by the Department of Education to be considered 'legal.' Many of the families who complied with this request were later contacted and some were prosecuted for truancy."

A 2004 study by Columbia University showed that home-school students, on average, outperform their public school peers, the Advance reported. Home-school students average a 1,093 on the SAT, compared to 1,012.6 for public school students and 1,123.8 for private independent school students. Another study from 1998 found that home-schooled students averaged a 22.8 on the ACT, compared with the average score of 21 for all students taking the test, according to the Advance.

Many colleges have special programs to recruit home-schooled students, while local high schools often allow home-schoolers to participate in certain academic or enrichment classes. This sort of cooperation is in opposition to the National Education Association's position on home schooling. The NEA is generally opposed to the practice and also advocates that any parent educating their child at home should be a licensed teacher.

Recently, Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, removed his co-sponsorship of the bill.

"I fully support home schooling," he told the Advance. "I co-sponsored House Bill 5912 out of a desire to protect legitimate home schooling from abuse by those who use home schooling as an excuse for truancy. However, due to concerns from home-schoolers in my district, I will withdraw my co-sponsorship and support for this bill in its current form."

In addition, many Republican representatives spoke out against the bill from its inception, the Advance reported.

"Representative (Brenda) Clack and I must have very different experiences with home schooling and home-school families to lead her to introduce this bill," Rep. William Huizenga, R-Holland, told the Advance. "Virtually every family and student that I have met over the years that is involved in home schooling has chosen that option for a variety of reasons that fit their family needs. I believe they must continue to have that option free from mandated government involvement."

Grand Valley Advance, "Proposed home-school legislation ignites local opposition," April 7, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Should Home-Schoolers Beware?" April 9, 2008

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Education Assessment Program test scores were released for grades 3-8 and show an improvement in some subjects, especially math, and a decline in other subjects, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Math scores in all grades but fifth saw improvement. Ninety percent of third-graders, 86 percent of fourth-graders, 74 percent of fifth-graders, 73 percent of sixth graders, 73 percent of seventh-graders and 71 percent of eighth-graders are considered to be "proficient" in math, the Free Press reported. With respect to reading, 86 percent of third-graders, 84 percent of fourth-graders, 82 percent of fifth-graders, 82 percent of sixth-graders, 72 percent of seventh-graders and 77 percent of eighth-graders were "proficient." Third-grade scores are down one percentage point from last year, and eighth grade scores improved, according to the Free Press.

In addition, writing scores increased in third, fifth, seventh and eighth grades, but were down in other grade levels. Science scores also increased for eighth graders. Social studies scores, however, declined in the two grade levels tested, the Free Press reported.

Michigan Department of Education officials said that 22 percent of fourth-grade students improved their scores from last year, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Michigan students' math scores rise for third straight year on MEAP exams," April 8, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Education at a Glance," Sept. 6, 2006

BRIDGEPORT, Mich. — Opposition to schools of choice was strong at a forum to discuss opening Bridgeport-Spaulding Community School's enrollment to students other than those assigned to the district, according to The Saginaw News.

More than half of the 31 speakers at the forum, including teachers, parents and community members, want the district to be open exclusively to students assigned to the district. The school board decided not to accept nonassigned students in 4-3 vote, but decided that students who were already enrolled could continue to attend the schools, The News reported. Just over 200 community members signed a petition to keep the district's enrollment closed, according to The News.

One parent called nonassigned students "retards," according to The News. Another parent responded to those remarks.

"My daughters are college graduates," Saginaw resident Marcia Buchanan, who has a son enrolled in the district, said, according to The News. "Closed-minded adults breed closed-minded children. I'm for open enrollment. I don't live here, I used to. We need to be culturally diverse. Don't be so judgmental, don't be stereotypical."

Other speakers wanted to prevent limited open enrollment for the sake of keeping small class sizes — which are set in contract negotiations — and not straining programs that could be offered exclusively to students assigned to the district, including academics and extracurricular options. Some speakers also claimed that a limited open enrollment policy brings students with behavioral problems into the schools. Parent Sharon Leach asserted that parents who want to utilize the schools should move and purchase a home in the district.

"I want a quality education for our children," Leach said, according to The News. "There are homes for sale here. Purchase a home and become part of the community. We would all welcome you. Let's once again have a school district we can be proud of."

Bridgeport Township officials also commented on the issue, and noted that most teachers now live outside of the district.

"Choice is not the whole problem," Frank J. Morrison, a township trustee, said, according to The News. "Ninety percent of the (district) teachers used to live in the township. Now, 90 percent of the teachers (don't live in district) come here and collect a paycheck."

The Saginaw News, "Most Bridgeport speakers oppose schools of choice," April 8, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Conclusion: Restoring a Free Market in Education," in "The Case for Choice in Schooling," Jan. 29, 2001

PINCKNEY, Mich. — The Pinckney Community Schools is considering contracting for custodial services as part of a plan to alleviate a $1.9 million anticipated budget deficit next year, according to The Detroit News.

The school board decided to close an elementary school last month, and is hoping to avoid privatizing janitorial services by offering a contract that will save the district enough to balance the budget, The News reported.

"We have put forth a proposal that would make it unnecessary to privatize that group," Pinckney Superintendent Dan Danosky told The News. "We have to know if we can count on the savings in negotiations."

Other measures being considered to balance the budget are closing the pool at the high school and adjusting busing schedules.

"It's getting more and more difficult as the years go on because we have cut things for the last several years," Board President Anne Colone told The News. "The economy in Michigan has not picked up and the state has not been able to give us the dollars that we need."

Two other Livingston County schools have contracted for custodial services in recent years. Last fall, Howell voted to contract for services and saved about $750,000. Hartland Consolidated Schools began contracting in 2006 and saved about $600,000, according to The News.

The Detroit News, "Pinckney cost-cutting schools try to keep janitors," April 14, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Services Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

FLINT, Mich. — The Flint Community Schools is considering closing four schools and possibly eliminating 137 jobs, according to The Flint Journal.

Flint currently has a projected deficit of about $12 million for 2008-2009, and will save $11 million with staff cuts, plus $2.5 million by closing the four schools. The schools targeted for closing have some of the lowest enrollments in the district. The two elementary schools enroll fewer than 200 students each, The Journal reported.

"We need to have a much healthier fund balance," Superintendent Linda Thompson said, according to The Journal. "We'll be looking at some additional closures in the future and we need to brace ourselves for that."

Many parents and community members were concerned about the proposed cuts.

"How do you expect parents to want their kids in the public school system when every year there's a dramatic change in the school consolidations?" Quincy Murphy, a resident who has a nephew enrolled in one of the elementary schools targeted for closure, told the Flint Board of Education, according to The Journal. "It seems like instead of going forward, we're going backward. We need to be opening schools, not closing them."

The Flint Journal, "Hundreds of parents pack Flint school board meeting over proposed cuts," April 9, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School District Budgeting," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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