Contents of this issue:
  • Federal Court upholds Arizona tuition tax credit

  • Millions spent on unfinished computer programs at Detroit schools

  • Granholm backs Flanagan in nationwide superintendent search

  • Higher ed. budget given top priority for additional tax revenue

  • U-M graduate student assistants strike after bargaining impasse

  • Southern Illinois University offers cash incentive for 4-year grads


FEDERAL COURT UPHOLDS ARIZONA TUITION TAX CREDIT
TUCSON, Ariz. — A court challenge of Arizona's Educational Tax Credit brought by the Arizona Civil Liberties Union was dismissed last week by Federal District Court Judge Earl Carroll.

The lawsuit represented one of several attempts by the AzCLU to challenge the tax credit under the premise that it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. In 1999, the Arizona Supreme Court dismissed a similar challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that comparable tax credit programs are indeed constitutional.

The Institute for Justice, the legal organization representing Arizona School Choice Trust in the matter, stated, "We are extremely gratified the District Court has once again recognized that school choice programs, such as Arizona's Scholarship Tax Credit, are constitutional."

Under Arizona's current program, individual taxpayers may receive a credit of up to $500, and married couples receive a $625 credit for donations to organizations such as ASCT that grant tuition scholarships.

The Institute for Justice has defended tuition tax credit programs nationwide, and is currently litigating in the interest of a school choice program in Florida.

SOURCES:
Tucson Citizen, "Federal judge dismisses challenge to Arizona private school tax credit," March 24, 2005
http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/breaking/032405_tax_credit.php

Institute for Justice, "Arizona's Scholarship Tuition Tax Credit Again Upheld by Court as Constitutional," March 24, 2005
http://www.ij.org/schoolchoice/az_taxcredits2/3_24_05pr.html

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Full Educational Choice (Vouchers, Private Scholarships, Tax Credits, and Universal Tuition Tax Credits)," January 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3273

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, "School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education," July 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2027

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


MILLIONS SPENT ON UNFINISHED COMPUTER PROGRAMS AT DETROIT SCHOOLS
DETROIT — Two of three software programs purchased five years ago by the Detroit Public Schools for millions of dollars are not in use, making it more difficult to track special education students and test scores, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press.

The costs incurred for the programs are unknown, as the district has withheld pertinent documents requested by the Free Press going back to April 2004. According to the Free Press, it is unknown whether the district allowed companies other than Massachusetts-based CELT Corp. to bid on the projects. CELT was awarded contracts to create the software programs.

CELT had previously been hired by the Colorado Springs, Co. district, when current Detroit Schools CEO Kenneth Burnley was superintendent of that district. Detroit Schools Senior Deputy CEO Robert Moore was also employed by the Colorado Springs district at that time, according to the Free Press.

Burnley defended the projects, saying that software normally requires many more years to implement than Detroit's efforts have consumed. Most organizations take 10 years to accomplish what we did in three to four years," he said. "It was a huge undertaking."

Further details on the CELT contract are available from the Detroit Free Press.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Schools buy tech, but much not in use," Mar. 28, 2005
http://www.freep.com/news/education/dps28e_20050328.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Government Encouragement," February 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6988

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The $200 Million Question," January 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6947

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Ironic Choices," November 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6895

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly With Detroit's Kids," July 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6688

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 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


GRANHOLM BACKS FLANAGAN IN NATIONWIDE SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH
LANSING, Mich. — A spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced last week the governor would support Mike Flanagan, currently the head of a school superintendents association, for the vacant state superintendent of public instruction post.

Flanagan, who has also served as superintendent for the Wayne County ISD and the Farmington Hills district, had publicly denied ambitions to be appointed to the state post, according to Booth Newspapers. "The governor expects to send one name to the board of education, and she would like Mike to reconsider and be considered for the position," said Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd.

The state Board of Education has been conducting a public nationwide search for candidates to fill the state superintendent position, which was previously held by Tom Watkins. Watkins, who was appointed before Granholm was elected to her office, resigned effective Mar. 9, after a contentious battle with the governor earlier this year over possible reforms for Michigan's education system.

SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "Granholm backs Flanagan for state superintendent," Mar. 23, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/base/news-5/111157622438260.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Lansing Must Embrace Basic Reform Following the Watkins Debacle," January 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6951

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Watkins Gets It Right," January 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6939


HIGHER ED. BUDGET GIVEN TOP PRIORITY FOR ADDITIONAL TAX REVENUE
LANSING, Mich. — State legislators reached an agreement with Gov. Jennifer Granholm over cuts to the higher education budget totaling $30 million as part of a strategy to reduce the state's $376 million deficit, reported Booth Newspapers.

The agreement would give state colleges and universities top priority in receiving additional tax revenue raised by the state between now and the end of the fiscal year in September. Additionally, legislators voted for a $200 million bond sale that would fund 24 building projects for state colleges and universities.

Granholm had earlier proposed a $30 million cut to the higher education budget. In addition to the tax revenue accord, the governor also agreed to drop a proposed requirement that institutions keep tuition increases down to 5 percent or less. Such tuition increase caps are harmful to colleges and universities, Sen. Michael Goschka, R-Brant, told Booth. While higher education is a "high-cost item, higher education is the best investment anyone can make in themselves," said Goschka.

SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "Colleges almost out of budget woods," Mar. 24, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1111662601164090.xml

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Prepaid Tuition Programs Can Help Make College Affordable," September 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3685

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Competition Among Professors Would Help Parents Afford College," August 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2105


U-M GRADUATE STUDENT ASSISTANTS STRIKE AFTER BARGAINING IMPASSE
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Student members of the Graduate Employees Organization in Ann Arbor picketed last Thursday for what was to have been a 12-hour strike after the union and University of Michigan failed to reach an agreement over health care expenses, reported the Detroit News.

At issue is whether the university can reserve the right to make changes to the student employees' health care coverage, according to Organization president Dave Dobbie. "We bargained until almost 1 a.m. and we couldn't reach an agreement," Dobbie told The News.

The strike began at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday. About 22 percent of undergraduate university classes are taught by graduate assistants, and "Our deans have sent a letter to all our teachers telling them we expect them to hold classes," said U-M spokeswoman Julie Peterson. "We don't feel a walkout is a fair bargaining mechanism."

Though public employee strikes in Michigan are illegal, The News reported that Dobbie said larger issues were at stake. "We're some of the lower paid employees at the university. We make an average of $14,000 a year," Dobbie said.

SOURCES:
Detroit News, "U-M grad assistants start 12-hour strike," Mar. 24, 2005
http://www.detnews.com/2005/schools/0503/24/metro-127833.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A New Day for Michigan Schools," April 1995
http://www.mackinac.org/12

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit Teachers Illegally Strike," Fall 1999
http://www.educationreport.org/2492

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Analyst Says: Close Teacher Strike Loophole That Allowed Anti-Charter School Protest," October 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/5822

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Failure of Anti-Strike Law to Deter Teachers Calls for New Measures, Analyst Says," September 1999
http://www.mackinac.org/2468


SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY OFFERS CASH INCENTIVE FOR 4-YEAR GRADS
CHICAGO, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Chancellor Walter V. Wendler announced last week that the school would offer a $500 tuition grant to students who graduate in four years, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.

The grant, which would be awarded in the eighth semester of a student's tenure at the university, is meant to encourage students to finish in four years. "Students are taking longer to graduate than ever before. But those coming right out of high school, many of them could graduate in four years, and we think this incentive will push them a little harder," said Wendler. Just 600 students out of an average-sized freshman class of 2,400 will complete their studies at the university in four years, according to the Sun-Times.

Wendler said that the incentive would eventually save taxpayers money, as students that graduate in four years would use fewer university resources overall. "If a student is here for five years, they're taking up seat space, they're using lights and electricity. And if we can graduate them more quickly, it reduces the burden on the campus and it gives (someone else) the opportunity to come in here and get an education," said Wendler.

SOURCES:
Chicago Sun-Times, "SIU offers cash to get students out in 4 yrs.," Mar. 24, 2005
http://www.suntimes.com/output/education/cst-nws-siu24.html

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


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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