Contents of this issue:
  • Governor's budget proposal would cut MEAP scholarship

  • Senate bill would guarantee annual funding increases for education

  • High school students add virtual classes to their schedules

  • Republican legislators seek to restrain health care costs

  • Virginia mulls shunning federal funding for education independence

  • Ypsilanti schools consider consolidating facilities

  • Tuition Tax Credit bill fails in Utah House


GOVERNOR'S BUDGET PROPOSAL WOULD CUT MEAP SCHOLARSHIP
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In an effort to save the state $9 million, Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed in her budget plan to cut a one-time scholarship of up to $500 to high school graduates who performed well on middle school MEAP tests, according to the Ann Arbor News.

Administration officials defended the cuts, noting they were never officially guaranteed, only tentatively planned. Ronald Meade, a high school principal in Chelsea, said the cuts would give students a reason to distrust government and lower their incentives to do well. "I am sure that anytime you remove an incentive, kids will be less motivated. Only time will tell," said Meade.

The scholarship was to be distributed first to the Class of 2005. Students that passed all four MEAP tests in seventh and eighth grades would receive an additional $500 in scholarship money; students passing three tests would earn $350; and $250 for passing two tests. The cut would require approval in the Legislature.

SOURCES:
Ann Arbor News, "Budget cuts college funds earned in middle school," Feb. 24, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1109259706220400.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6980

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3683


SENATE BILL WOULD GUARANTEE ANNUAL FUNDING INCREASES FOR EDUCATION
HOLLAND, Mich. — Senate Minority Leader Robert Emerson, D-Flint, introduced a bill last Wednesday to guarantee annual funding increases to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The bill would also limit employer contributions to school employees' retirement plans, reported the Holland Sentinel.

The bill would increase school funding each year by five percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, and would be retroactive to the 2002-2003 fiscal year. Emerson told the Sentinel that getting the bill passed would be difficult. "My gut reaction is it will be tough, and people will have to work very hard," said Emerson. "But I can't think of a higher priority than education."

Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said he would prefer to see funding increases in line with performance and efficiency increases. Making such a decision in the Legislature instead of in a statewide referendum would be imprudent, he added. "Not going to the people, and just doing it here in Lansing, is not going to go over very well," Adler told the Sentinel.

SOURCES:
Holland Sentinel, "Proposal would give schools annual increases in funding," Feb. 25, 2005
http://hollandsentinel.com/stories/022405/loc_022405007.shtml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "4M: The Real Structural Problem," February 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6983

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6980

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3683

Michigan Privatization Report, "Bringing the Market to the Ivory Tower," Winter 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6914

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Going Broke by Degree," September 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6805


HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ADD VIRTUAL CLASSES TO THEIR SCHEDULES
BOSTON — Students in Connecticut have logged into virtual classrooms in an effort to expand their knowledge of specific subjects not offered in a traditional high school setting, reported the Boston Globe.

Students at the Virtual High School add online courses in subjects of interest on top of their existing schedules at their brick-and-mortar high schools. The High School, a nonprofit organization, said its program offers "content-rich, credit-bearing high school courses to students across the country and around the world," according to its website.

Ben Stark, a junior at a Connecticut high school, said the independence required of students taking online courses could be daunting but rewarding, according to the Globe. "Everybody is smart at something," Stark said. "The thing that's great about a virtual course is, you can find something you want to learn, something that really interests you."

SOURCES:
Boston Globe, "Virtual high school a popular alternative for independent students," Feb. 24, 2005
http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2005/02/24/ virtual_high_school_a_popular_alternative_for_independent_students/

Michigan Education Report, "The Engler Education Legacy," Fall 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4847

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2962

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling," January 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3236


REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS SEEK TO RESTRAIN HEALTH CARE COSTS
LANSING, Mich. — Republican state legislators told Booth Newspapers last week they would attempt to control health care spending for the state's teachers and education employees even as special interest groups campaign for increased education funding.

Sen. Shirley Johnson, R-Troy, told Booth that a legislative bid to guarantee annual increases in education funding would likely fail to pass muster. Johnson has expressed interest in funding a $250,000 study looking into the possibility of combining all teachers' health care contracts into a single system. "The school districts are more than a little excited because it could save them tons of money," Johnson told Booth.

Much of any increase in education funding will go directly toward health care costs and not into the classroom, charged Johnson. "The few dollars we have to send them gets eaten up in health care," she told Booth. But MEA spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley said teachers have already taken pay concessions to keep health care benefits at current levels. "We have taken lower raises and, in some places, no raises to hang onto benefits," she said.

SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "Legislators eye teacher benefit costs," Feb. 25, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1109329822206910.xml

Michigan Education Report, "MESSA: Keeping school districts from saving money on health care," Summer 2004
http://www.educationreport.org/6742

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MEA Abuses Public School Health Care Funds," Aug. 7, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/9404

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," November 1993
http://www.mackinac.org/8

Michigan Privatization Report, "Ensuring Insurance Competition," September 1998
http://www.mackinac.org/667


VIRGINIA MULLS SHUNNING FEDERAL FUNDING FOR EDUCATION INDEPENDENCE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia legislators announced they would consider refusing all federal education funding in an attempt to avoid complying with federal rules under the No Child Left Behind Act, reported the Washington Post.

Legislators have asked for a cost analysis of how much their state spends to comply with the Act's requirements and the effectiveness of funding their education system with state funds alone, according to the Post. "It's going to cost us a whole lot more to stay in then to get out," said Republican Delegate James H. Dillard II.

Virginia officials asked the federal government for waivers on 10 specific requirements of the federal law because, they claim, the requirements duplicate efforts already in place in the state system. If the state remains under the control of the Act, Dillard told the Post, "we will have as much control over our public school system as we presently have over health care. Which is basically zilch."

SOURCES:
Washington Post, "Cost Analysis Of 'No Child' Law Backed," Feb. 25, 2005
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51520-2005Feb24.html?sub=AR

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4082

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4846


YPSILANTI SCHOOLS CONSIDER CONSOLIDATING FACILITIES
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Ypsilanti community panel may recommend consolidating school buildings to save money in the face of a projected $5.55 million budget deficit next year, according to the Ann Arbor News.

The News reported that several Ypsilanti schools have buildings with unused and lightly used classrooms, which consolidation could alleviate by closing one or more school buildings. The extra space, said Ypsilanti gym teacher Kelly Powers, does not make sense with the current enrollment status of the district. "They are probably going to have to consolidate and they may have to close an elementary school. If they do that, they have to reduce some staff," Powers told the News. "There's a lot of things that could happen, but our numbers do not warrant this many buildings."

Though some parents expressed hesitation at the idea of losing a neighborhood school, many accepted the idea as a financial necessity. "We don't have enough students to fill the buildings. I think a lot of people are aware that the district is having financial problems and that that would be a quick solution," said parent Wendy Gouine. The school board must pass a balanced budget by June 30.

SOURCES:
Ann Arbor News, "Ypsilanti schools consider consolidation," Feb. 21, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1109000507261400.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3683

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," December 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4891


TUITION TAX CREDIT BILL FAILS IN UTAH HOUSE
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to create a tuition tax credit program in Utah was defeated in the state House by a vote of 34-40, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Supporters of the bill, including sponsor state Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, said they were disappointed that the measure failed to receive enough legislative backing. "Clearly I'm disappointed that the interest of the union, the protectionism of the status quo, trumped the interest of choice and the interest of families and children," Ferrin told The Tribune. "It looks to me like some (in the GOP) succumbed to fears."

The bill would have provided dollar-for-dollar tax credits to families that changed to private schools from public schools, and credits to low-income families that already sent their children to private school. The maximum tax credit of $3,750 was reserved for low-income families, while the lowest, $500 tax break would have been granted to higher-income families.

An independent study by Utah State University predicted that the measure would have saved the state millions in long-term costs, while a legislative analysis predicted the state would save $3.4 million next year and lose nearly $144,000 in 2007, according to the Tribune. Yet a Utah Office of Education analysis predicted a nearly $1 million loss in 2006 and an $11.7 million loss in 2007.

Although the bill was amended to include $10 million for public schools in the event they incurred financial losses, legislators weren't convinced. "Why couldn't you put $10 million [toward the public schools' overall funding]?" asked Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, according to The Tribune.

Three days remain in the legislative session to revive the bill. Supporters said that if they do not succeed in passing the bill in this session, they will likely push for another vote in the next session. "It's not over yet," Royce Van Tassell, director of tax-credit support group Education Excellence Utah, told the Tribune.

SOURCES:
Salt Lake Tribune, "Tuition tax credit bill dies in House," Feb. 26, 2005
http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_2587355

Utah H.B. 39
http://www.le.state.ut.us/~2005/htmdoc/hbillhtm/HB0039.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy speech, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which Is the Better Choice for School Choice?" July 27, 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6710

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education," November 1997
http://www.mackinac.org/362

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits," April 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4191

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4117

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," January 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3236


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at
med@educationreport.org.

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