Contents of this issue:
  • New charter plan expands cap, public oversight
  • Timing of school tax votes questioned
  • Public school graduates not prepared for college, says report
  • Oakland ISD spent thousands on catered food
  • STUDY: Girls moving past boys in academics
  • Detroit charter school closes
  • ANNOUNCEMENT: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy's 16th Annual High School Debate Workshops

LANSING, Mich. — A plan to allow new charter schools around the state was agreed upon last week by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and several Republican lawmakers pushing the idea.

The plan would allow 150 more charters to open over the next 10 years, including 10 university-authorized high schools and 15 authorized by the Thompson Foundation, headed by philanthropist Robert Thompson, which plans to give up to $200 million to open charter high schools in the Detroit area. In addition, the Detroit Public Schools Reform Board would revert to an elected board instead of the currently appointed board.

Under the plan, new charters would also have governing boards that include at least one member from the community where they are established.

But the bill still is not in its final form, and House Democrats, who disapprove of charters, were withholding approval Tuesday. "I don't think there's any consensus on this issue in the caucus," said House Democratic spokesman Mark Fisk. "We didn't negotiate this. We need to see more details. Depending on the details, the caucus could very well be split."

Detroit Free Press, "State school deal sets 150 charters," Sept. 17, 2003

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, Mich. — Six school districts in metro Detroit are holding multimillion-dollar bond elections this month, raising suspicion that the elections are purposely held at times when voter turnout would be low.

Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, who has introduced legislation to consolidate all municipal and school-related elections to four dates per year, told the Detroit Free Press, "If you're not a person that follows local media, or is involved in the school district directly, chances are there's no way you're going to know there's an election going on."

Some districts say the reason they are holding the elections is because officials prefer fall votes, others say they missed the deadline for a June election, when the bond could have coincided with school board races.

"Why would they have two elections? To hold down the number of voters who turn out, especially seniors," commented former Detroit School Board member Jerry O'Neill. "They're trying to sneak it through -- past the voters."

Detroit Free Press, "SCHOOL TAX PROPOSALS: Votes' timing questioned," Sept. 19, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Consolidate School Elections with General Elections," June 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Is there a case for election consolidation across the state or should such matters be decided at the local level?" June 2002

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A new report says students graduating from public high schools are increasingly unprepared for college in academics.

According to the report, released by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York, less than half of the nation's public school graduates are academically prepared to go to college due to their choice of classes in high school. Among minorities, less than 20 percent of students graduate prepared for college.

"Counseling students what courses to take could be a good idea," Jay P. Greene, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "At the very least, high schools have to make available courses needed to go on to a four-year college."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Many public school graduates aren't college-ready, report says," Sept. 16, 2003't+college-ready,+report+says+

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

WATERFORD, Mich. — New allegations of overspending in the Oakland Intermediate School District (OISD) have arisen amid accounts of financial scandals over the last several months.

The OISD reported that it spent over $26,000 on catered meals during the month of June alone. District officials claim this money was spent on teachers' meals at conferences, but records show that $3,200 was spent on meals given to 80 staffers while moving into the district's new $30 million headquarters. Then, the district spent $650 on bagels for a welcoming party in the building.

"Once again, we see a district that just doesn't get it," Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, told the Detroit Free Press. "This is supposed to be money that goes to kids, and time and again, you see the people running this district spending money on themselves in ways that are just completely unacceptable."

Detroit Free Press, "District's 1-month food tab: $26,000," Sept. 19, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003

Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?" Winter 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An international study of reading scores found that girls are better readers than boys in industrialized nations, surprising some education experts.

"It just blows you away," said Barry McGaw, director for education at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which released the study. "Fifteen years ago, we were saying that girls don't stay in school and don't go on to post-secondary education. Look what they've done in 15 years."

Girls are outperforming boys because of the differing social atmospheres that the sexes are brought up in, says Kaye Peters, a high school English teacher in St. Paul, Minn. "Girls can negotiate the fine line between what peers want of them and excelling at school. Boys have a harder time balancing being socially accepted and academically focused," says Peters.

Except for students in Switzerland, Japan and Turkey, women earn more university degrees than men; and except for Austria and Iceland, girls have a higher job expectation than men. Fourth- grade and 15-year-old girls outscored boys in reading tests in every industrialized country, according to the study.

Seattle Times, "Girls surging past boys academically, new study says," Sept. 20, 2003

DETROIT, Mich. — Ferris State University revoked its charter for the Beacon International Academy in Detroit last week due to excessive rent costs.

The university notified the school this time last year that it would revoke the charter if it did not try to lower rent costs with its lessee, the East Lake Missionary Baptist Church, which houses the school. "Taxpayers' money is supposed to be going to education -- and we feel those funds weren't being used for those purposes," Marc Sheehan, Ferris State spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press.

Some parents say they were unaware of the closing, even though the school held meetings last year to explain the situation and were given a year to rectify the situation. "We feel very badly for students, parents and employees . . . but this is not something that is a surprise," said Sheehan.

At the time of termination, the lease was $55,000 per month because of new construction projects authorized by the church.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit school loses charter," Sept. 19, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Less Government, Not More, Is Key to Academic Achievement and Accountability," October 2001

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

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is proud to sponsor the 16th annual High School Debate Workshops designed to equip students for the debate season through informative speakers, free materials, and a vigorous exchange of ideas.

View the debate poster at:

Over 7,500 students and teachers have honed their forensic skills at our Debate Workshops. This comprehensive one-day program informs debaters on the current debate resolution through expert speakers, hard-to-find resource materials, and in-depth discussions. Schools may send as many participants as they wish. Space is limited, however, and reservations are taken on a first- come, first-served basis.

The workshops are being held this week in four locations: One was held in Livonia on Monday. Today, another is being held in Jackson at the Commonwealth Commerce Center, 209 East Washington; tomorrow another will be held in Grand Rapids at Eberhard Center, Grand Valley State University; and on Thursday the final workshop will be held in Traverse City at the Park Place Hotel, 300 East State St.

This year's debate resolution: That the United States federal government should establish an ocean policy substantially increasing protection of marine natural resources.

Speakers include Gregory Rehmke, former director of the Foundation for Economic Education's High School Speech and Debate Program, Michael Alessi, director of natural resource policy for the Reason Public Policy Institute, and Don Leal, a senior associate with the Political Research Economy Center, who has written extensively on fisheries, water, outdoor recreation, oil and gas, as well as timber and federal land-use policy.

Cost is $5.00 per student, lunch included. For more information contact Mackinac Center Director of Fiscal Policy Michael LaFaive at (989) 631-0900, fax (989) 631-0964, or E-mail:

Greetings and registration for all seminars begins at 8:30 a.m.

Sessions begin promptly at 9 a.m. and close by 2:00 p.m.

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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