Contents of this issue:
  • Livingston County charters stay on budget with planning, cost savings

  • Union, districts, file federal suit against No Child Left Behind Act

  • Senate committee approves kindergarten age change by slim margin

  • Grand Rapids reports highest voluntary transfer rate under NCLB

  • Cedar Springs support staff switch to AFL-CIO representation from MEA

  • Utah lawmakers order state officials to ignore some NCLB provisions

BRIGHTON, Mich. — Representatives from a charter school management company in Livingston County told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus last week that the company has been able to stay in the black even with less funding than local schools through cost savings and business-like financial projections and budgeting.

According to the Press & Argus, charters receive the same per-pupil grant that conventional public schools in their districts receive, but do not benefit from bond issues and millage increases that many districts rely on to fund building projects and sinking funds. "We just run like a business. We project what our revenues will be and we live within those revenues," said Chuck Stockwell, president of CS Partners, which oversees the administration of two charter schools in Livingston County.

Lane Hotchkiss, Uniserv director at the Genoa Township Michigan Education Association, told the Press & Argus that charters do not face the same expenses as conventional public schools, such as transportation and science labs. "Most charter schools are only elementary education, which is much cheaper than secondary education, yet charter schools still get the same funding from the state," Hotchkiss said.

The savings at CS Partners' charter schools come in part from reduced overhead and administrative costs, according to Stockwell. Though teachers may receive lower salaries than their conventional school peers, Stockwell's charters contract with a private insurance carrier for teacher health care and contribute to individual 401(k) plans for teachers instead of providing a defined benefit plan, which, according to Stockwell, has similarities to the Social Security system. "Those types of defined pension programs are being phased out in the business world," he said.

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Some schools thriving in tough times," April 22, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When Will Conventional Public Schools Be As Accountable as Charters?" July 2004

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

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," December 2002

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The National Education Association, nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, and 10 local NEA affiliates from 10 states were expected to file suit in the eastern Michigan U.S. District Court last week against portions of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to the Muskegon Chronicle.

At issue is one paragraph of the act, which states that schools cannot be required to carry out requirements under the law unless the federal government covers the expenses of those requirements. "What it means is just what it says — that you don't have to do anything this law requires unless you receive federal funds to do it," NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin told the Chronicle.

According to the plaintiffs, federal requirements under the act have and will cost schools billions of dollars not currently appropriated by the federal government. Though federal expenditures for programs required under the act have increased by 40 percent since President Bush's inauguration — from $17.4 billion to $24.4 billion — the suit claims the government has not lived up to its total authorized expenditures by a margin of $27 billion.

Muskegon Chronicle, "Teachers, schools sue over under-funded 'No Child Left Behind' law," April 20, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "NCLB underfunded?" Spring 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "No Cop-Out Left Behind," March 2005

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 to approve a bill that would push back the kindergarten birth date cutoff for five-year-olds from Dec. 1 to Sept. 1. The committee vote was split three Republicans to two Democrats, according to Booth Newspapers.

The bill is part of a package of legislation designed to prevent learning problems in young children. "The intent of the package is to set in motion a philosophical shift, to give kids the tools they need early," said committee chairman Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. Critics of the bill say that the decision to enroll children in kindergarten should rest with parents. "We think the issue ought to be parent-driven," said Brian Whiston, a lobbyist for the Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association. Still, said Mattawan Schools Superintendent James Weeldreyer, "In our district, the present date is working. ... There are many kids who need to be in school who fall into that (September to November birthday) range."

The issue is not simple, according to committee member Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon. Response has "been mixed," he said. "It's really a difficult issue."

Booth Newspapers, "Panel sends kindergarten-delay bill to Senate," April 22, 2005

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Data from the state Department of Education show that Grand Rapids received the highest number of intra-district transfer requests of any district in Michigan for the 2003-2004 school year, reported The Grand Rapids Press.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students in schools designated as "failing" by the U.S. Department of Education are allowed to transfer to other schools in their district. Out of 340 such transfers statewide, 198 were from within the Grand Rapids district, while just 37 students transferred under the law in Detroit, and none in comparable urban districts such as Flint, Lansing and Benton Harbor. "I think we did a good job of communicating with our parents what their options were, so I can see why we had people transferring," Grand Rapids Chief Academic Officer John Harberts told The Press. "But I'm astounded to see that we have two-thirds of all the transfers in the state."

The Act also requires that districts provide transportation to the students' chosen school as long as their original school fails to meet certain progress objectives. But, according to The Press, more students took advantage of after-school tutoring, which the act requires of failing schools. Over 11,000 Michigan students took part in after-school tutoring last year as an alternative to switching schools. "I think many parents have chosen to stay where they think they are happy," said Yvonne Caamal Canul, director of the state Education Department's Office of School Improvement.

The Grand Rapids Press, "GR tops state in school transfers," April 21, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "April 18: Another Day of Reckoning," April 2005

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Almost 70 percent of voting Cedar Springs support staff opted to end their MEA affiliation last week in favor of an AFL-CIO affiliate under the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 547, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Representatives will begin negotiations over an expired contract for support staff as soon as the state Bureau of Employment Relations certifies the election, according to union officials. "I just don't feel (the MEA) has been pulling for us like they claim they have," bus aide Debra VanderWerff told The Press. "Because they are new, (IUOE Local 547) is going to probably be more apt to do something to prove themselves to us." VanderWerff had lost her health insurance due to a decrease in working hours.

Cedar Springs MEA representative Jim Pratt said he was satisfied the support staff chose to stay with a union and blamed the "gross dissatisfaction" of support staff on the state legislature, according to The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Cedar Springs support staff drop MEA," April 20, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Unions: Helping or Hurting?"

NEW YORK, N.Y. — In what The New York Times called the first vote of its kind, the Utah state legislature last week passed a bill that orders state education officials to ignore requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act that are not paid for by the federal government or are incompatible with the state's education goals.

Utah Gov. John Huntsman, Jr. has said he intends to sign the bill, which passed by large margins in both the state Senate and House. According to The Times, the bill requires educators and state officials to "provide first priority to meeting state goals" and limit the amount of state money they spend on federal requirements under the act. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings sent a letter last week to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, warning that his state could lose up to $76 million of the total $107 million Utah receives annually in federal funding. That letter was perceived by some legislators to be a warning against their legislation. "I don't like to be threatened," said State Rep. Steven R. Mascaro. "I wish they'd take the stinking money and go back to Washington."

The New York Times, "Utah Vote Rejects Parts of Education Law," April 20, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "April 18: Another Day of Reckoning," April 2005

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

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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