Contents of this issue:
  • Study: Tuition tax credits could save Utah $1.3 billion

  • Michigan governor receives state education commission report

  • Detroit school audit uncovers questionable financial practices

  • President Bush signs special education reauthorization

  • Grand Rapids board reviews plans for year-round schools

  • Michigan schools chief calls for school district restructuring

SALT LAKE CITY — The Deseret Morning News reported that a study commissioned by the Utah Legislature and published last month by Utah State University researchers indicated that Utah could save up to $1.3 billion over 13 years by allowing parents to use state-granted tuition tax credits to choose a private school for their children.

The tuition tax credit plan analyzed in the study was based on a bill introduced in the Utah Legislature last year. The plan would allow a tax credit of up to $2,000 for tuition for students who begin attending private schools (current private school students would not be eligible for the credit).

Because $2,000 is less than the amount Utah spends per student annually, the extra state funds — over $6,500 — remaining behind from a student who switched to a private school would be spread among existing public school students. "Tuition tax credits could save the state some money. ... It sounds like tuition tax credits are a well-justified policy," said USU associate professor of political science and study co-author Roberta Herzberg, according to the Morning News.

Opponents of tuition tax credits in Utah have said that the number of students choosing to attend private schools in the state would not be large enough to create such savings. "We're not ready to endorse the concept at this point in time," State Associate Superintendent Patrick Ogden told the Morning News.

Deseret Morning News, "Tuition tax credits equal big savings?" Nov. 10, 2004,1249,595104339,00.html

Utah State University, "Estimating Demand And Supply Response To Tuition Tax Credits For Private School Tuition In Utah," Nov. 1, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy speech, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which Is the Better Choice for School Choice?" July 27, 2004

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits," April 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," January 2001

DETROIT — The Detroit News reported that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm accepted a report last week containing recommendations meant to help double the number of college graduates in Michigan during the next decade.

Michigan needs more college graduates in order to improve economically, Granholm said, according to The News. The report, produced by Lt. Gov. John Cherry's Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth, included recommendations to increase the difficulty of high school coursework and to help provide a college education to all interested students. "These recommendations no doubt will appear in one form or another in policy," Granholm said, according to The News. "Stay tuned for specifics."

It is not clear if the Legislature can afford to implement all of the recommendations. "Some of the things that can be done are relatively low cost," said Lou Anna Simon, who will soon become president of Michigan State University. "There are other recommendations that require money."

Just 26 percent of Michigan residents age 25 to 34 have received bachelor's degrees; some states have rates of 33 percent or more, according to The News. The national average is 27.5 percent.

The Detroit News, "Granholm pushes for higher education," Dec. 17, 2004

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Prepaid Tuition Programs Can Help Make College Affordable," September 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Competition Among Professors Would Help Parents Afford College," August 1999

DETROIT — A Detroit school district audit of several Detroit public schools found that almost $200,000 of school money was missing or spent improperly at Redford High School, according to the Detroit Free Press. The principal at Redford has since been placed on administrative leave, the Free Press reported. The district's audit also found problems at the district's central warehouse.

The Detroit Public Schools conducted the audit of Redford High School for the 2003-2004 school year after receiving anonymous tips about the school. The audit reportedly found about $200,000 that was missing or misspent on items like flat-screen televisions and office furniture, according to the Free Press. The Free Press reported an audit finding that the school had failed to solicit competitive bids for two major contracts totaling $114,000.

The Redford High principal told The Detroit News, however, that there had been no impropriety, and that one of the financial practices the audit questioned had already been discontinued. "No one has bothered to look at how high the math scores are," he told The News. "The number of parents' complaints are also down."

The audits also showed problems at the district's central warehouse with tracking district supplies and funds, according to the Free Press. In one instance, the Free Press reported, the district hired a contractor for $3.9 million to sort and distribute warehouse goods, but the district lacks documentation to prove the work was completed.

The Detroit school district is currently facing a $198 million shortfall. "In this critical time, the district needs to make sure the funds are spent in the manner in which they are intended," April Royster, the Detroit district's chief of internal audits, told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Audit finds thousands in Detroit school funds missing," Dec. 15, 2004

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools audit finds financial flaws," Dec. 15, 2004 (use search tool)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001

REHOBOTH, Del. — President Bush earlier this month signed into law a reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was developed during two years of debate in the U.S. House and Senate, according to the Delaware Coast Press.

The bill was authored by Delaware Congressman Mike Castle, who was also author of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, an earlier federal education law. "This new law, a result of all of our labor, is a bright light that demonstrates both parties can work together and achieve real change to improve the lives of Americans," said Castle, according to the Coast Press.

The new law includes measures meant to reduce the paperwork load on teachers, to better identify children with special needs, to improve classroom discipline and to expand choices for parents.

Delaware Coast Press, "Federal bill to improve special education signed into law," Dec. 8, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Thousands unnecessarily assigned to special-ed," Summer 2004

Michigan Education Report, "No local autonomy for special education in Michigan," Spring 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Do Private Schools Serve Difficult-to-Educate Students?" October 1997

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids school board last week reviewed preliminary plans to implement a year-round "alternative calendar" in two district schools, the East Grand Rapids Cadence News reported.

The schools, Dickerson Elementary and Ottawa Montessori, would have year-round schedules interrupted only by one- and two-week breaks, during which students might still voluntarily participate in remedial work or other programs. The district's executive director of curriculum and early childhood instruction, Deb McFalone, said enough support for the idea exists at the two schools to implement the switch this coming fall.

McFalone said reading scores in the district show that students decline in academic performance over the summer, in contrast to the steady or improved scores of students who take summer school. "That confirmed our own hunch that when we don't disconnect for those 10 weeks in the summer, we can impact some retention," McFalone said, according to the Cadence News. Under the proposed alternative calendar, the longer summer vacation would be replaced by shorter breaks spread throughout the year.

East Grand Rapids Cadence News, "GRPS Board takes first look at year-round calendar," Dec. 14, 2004 base/news-1/1103053922193120.xml

DETROIT — In an eight-page report to the Michigan Board of Education last week, Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins called on school districts around the state to address school funding difficulties by restructuring their district policies and business practices, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Watkins said school districts must consider such remedies as mergers and shared business services. Requests for state tax increases to boost education spending will likely be rebuffed, given that state government has a projected $1 billion deficit in fiscal 2005, Watkins said. He also questioned the effectiveness of a tax increase absent reform: "Calls to raise taxes to fund education without a systematic overhaul will only serve to maintain the status quo," he wrote in his report.

The Free Press reported that the cost of retirement and benefits for school employees is soaring, with health care coverage consuming two-thirds of every new dollar given to schools.

Detroit Free Press, "Schools chief: State's districts need a shake-up," Dec. 15, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dancing Around Education: A 170-Year Waltz With Reform," December 2004

Michigan Privatization Report, "Privatization Survey Shows Outsourcing is a Popular Management Tool," December 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001

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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