Contents of this issue:
  • Georgia enacts tuition tax credit program
  • Michigan students struggle to pass Algebra I
  • Oak Park chief of staff asked to resign over expenses
  • Dearborn charters struggle to keep up on state tests
  • Detroit Schools' deficit is $45 million; second takeover possible

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A universal tuition tax credit program was signed into law in Georgia, granting parents access to $50 million in scholarships to send their children to private schools, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The program allows individuals and businesses to receive tax credits for donating money to organizations that provide private school scholarships to K-12 students. Businesses can receive a credit for up to 75 percent of their state tax liability, while individuals and couples can receive a credit for donations up to $1,000 and $2,500 respectively, the Chronicle reported.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a state teachers union, opposes the new law.

"It would be of great benefit for our state — now and for its future — if our lawmakers spent as much time and employed as much creativity adequately funding our K-12 public schools attended daily by 1.6 million students as they do trying their best to create an alternative system of publicly financed private school education for a few thousand students across the state," PAGE spokesman Tim Callahan wrote in an e-mail, according to the Chronicle.

"We have to realize the public education system in Georgia is failing our children," State Rep. David Casas, the bill's sponsor and a Cobb County public school teacher, told the Chronicle. "I truly believe the way to fix ailing public education is school choice."

Augusta Chronicle, "Private school option controversial," May 18, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education," Nov. 13, 1997

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. — A survey conducted by the Macomb Intermediate School District found that 28 percent of its students are failing Algebra I, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service.

Rep. Tim Melton, chair of the House Education Committee, has contacted additional ISDs and found between 20 and 30 percent of students statewide are failing Algebra I, which is part of the new state-mandated high school graduation requirements. When the MISD intervened to improve the scores of its Algebra I students, 10 percent still failed the course, MIRS reported.

"It should scare everyone," Melton told MIRS. "There is a serious crisis brewing."

MIRS, "Kids Flunking Algebra 1," May 15, 2008
(subscription required)

Michigan Education Report, "New high school graduation requirements in action," May 6, 2008

OAK PARK, Mich. — The Oak Park Public Schools chief of staff has been asked to resign after having a private shower facility and luxury gym built at the Oak Park Preparatory Academy, according to The Detroit News.

Gregory Dill was placed on paid administrative leave and is under investigation by police. Dill said that he received permission from the superintendent for the room, which included showers, tile floors, cherry cabinets, a luxury gym and a big screen television. Dill said he paid for the renovations with his own money and that some of the items were added by the contractors without his knowledge, The News reported.

But three school board members contacted the police about possible misuse of public funds. Superintendent Sandra Harris did approve the project, but failed to inquire how much it would cost.

"She never asked for the scope of the project, and our bylaws are clear," Trustee Alicia Jones told The News. "The checks and balances flow from her to her administration and down to the staff. She didn't know if it would cost the district $19,000 or $9."

The Detroit News, "School chief asks top aide to resign after shower flap," May 15, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Should Have More Options When Schools Commit Academic Fraud," Feb. 2, 2001

DEARBORN, Mich. — Charter public schools in Dearborn are struggling to match the conventional school district's scores on state standardized tests, according to the Dearborn Press & Guide.

Two charter schools, West Village South Campus and the Dearborn Academy, scored the lowest on the fourth grade MEAP test in all of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. Sixty-five percent of Dearborn Academy students and 66 percent of West Village students scored proficient on the fourth grade math test. The state average for the test was 86 percent, and Dearborn Public Schools averaged 85 percent. In English Language Arts, 46 percent of students scored proficient at Dearborn Academy, while 40 percent of fourth graders at West Village were proficient. The state average for that portion of the test was 76 percent, with Dearborn Public Schools averaging 67 percent, the Press & Guide reported.

The two charters are operated by American Institutional Management Services. AIMS Director of Education Angela Laugh said it isn't necessarily fair to compare the charter public school scores to local conventional school districts because the school pulls students from a larger geographic area, while also having a high student turnover rate. At The Dearborn Academy, one-quarter of fourth grade students haven't been at the school for a full year. At West Village, one-third of students have attended for less than a year. Because of this, those scores are not counted when determining whether they met federal standards, according to the Press & Guide.

There are six charter public schools in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights and all of them scored at least 10 points below the state average on the fourth grade English Language Arts test, according to the Press & Guide.

Dearborn Press & Guide, "Local charter academies struggle with state tests," May 14, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Markets, not MEAP, best way to measure school quality," May 12, 2000

DETROIT — The Detroit Public Schools is facing a $45 million budget deficit, which if not alleviated may lead to the second state takeover in a decade, according to The Detroit News.

If the district fails to resolve the overspending, it will be in default of a state-mandated deficit elimination plan to pay back $210 million in debt. DPS has an operating budget of $1.2 billion, and has been plagued with an exodus of students. This year, DPS saw a decrease in enrollment of 12,000, which equates to about $90 million in state aid, The News reported.

Board member Marie Thornton is not optimistic about the district's ability to get itself out of this financial bind.

"I project there will be a deficit if we are not able to relieve the general fund expenditures from other sources, like special education funding," Thornton told The News. "This lets me know Dr. Calloway is not able to manage a school district this large, and she continues to point fingers at the past administration."

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools face $45M deficit," May 16, 2008 805160404/1410/METRO01

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Community colleges: 'Wait and see' on Detroit charter schools," April 7, 2008

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online 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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