Contents of this issue:
  • State school board selects new state school superintendent

  • K-12 schools dodge cuts; cuts to universities could be eliminated

  • Graduating teachers look to other states for jobs

  • Plaintiffs push to reopen Arkansas school funding suit

  • U.S. Department of Education approves private loan consolidation

  • Burnley withdraws from Florida school district superintendent bid

LANSING, Mich. — The state Board of Education last Wednesday selected Mike Flanagan, 55, as Michigan's Superintendent of Public Instruction, reported Booth Newspapers. The board's approval came in a 5-1 vote, with two members abstaining.

Flanagan was one of three finalists for the position, and he was publicly supported by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Three Democrats and two Republicans voted in favor of Flanagan's appointment. Flanagan said his background with education groups and the governor would help him achieve his goals. "I think we could develop policy in a way that isn't left-hand, right-hand," he said.

The new superintendent replaces former education chief Tom Watkins, who resigned in January following public pressure from Gov. Jennifer Granholm to leave the post. Flanagan worked as an advisor to Gov. Granholm in 2003, and he has served as the superintendent of the Wayne County intermediate school district and of Farmington Public Schools. At the time of his appointment, he was executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

Booth Newspapers, "Flanagan takes top school post," May 19, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Lansing Must Embrace Basic Reform Following the Watkins Debacle," January 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Watkins Gets It Right," January 2005

LANSING, Mich. — Improved forecasts for state revenue show that Michigan's K-12 education funding will avoid cuts this year, and a planned $30 million cut for the state's higher education systems will be reduced, according to the Lansing State Journal.

In the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the state's general fund will receive nearly $45 million more than last year, while the school aid fund will receive about $28 million less. The state will be able to avoid a midyear cut in school aid because of a budget buffer and 1,300 fewer students than expected statewide. "The economy is moving along sideways, the way the auto industry is," said state Treasurer Jay Rising.

The extra state income will reduce by $16.5 million a planned $30 million cut to colleges and universities. The remainder of the cut might be forgone if the general fund balance at year end allows.

Still, unemployment figures hovering above 7 percent could translate into less state tax revenue. "I'm not convinced we've turned the corner," Senate Fiscal Agency Director Gary Olson told the Journal.

Lansing State Journal, "Schools won't see further state cuts," May 20, 2005

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 School Districts," December 2002

DETROIT — A number of Michigan college officials and recent graduates of Michigan teaching schools have reported that there are few in-state teaching job opportunities, according to The Detroit News. As a result, many new graduates of Michigan teacher colleges are looking for posts in other states, particularly in the Southeast and Southwest.

"The job market is not what it was a few years ago," said Bob Thomas, Oakland University's director of career services, according to The News. "There's still this tight market in school districts."

Eastern Michigan University Corporate Relations Manager Barbara Jones remarked on the attendance of out-of-state recruiters at a major teacher career fair held at the university. "I had districts tell me they were here because the economy in Michigan was flat and they thought they'd come here and recruit our students," Jones said, according to The News.

One sector with job openings for Michigan teachers is charter schools, Michigan Association of Public School Academies President Dan Quisenberry told The News. In the last 11 years, student enrollment at charters has increased from 1,200 to 82,000, and the number of charter schools has increased from 12 to 216. "Because of new school growth and existing schools' planned growth, that provides annual opportunities for adding staff," Quisenberry said. "It does create an opportunity in the tighter market."

The Detroit News, "Teachers flee Michigan to find jobs," May 22, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "What teacher shortage?" Winter 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Solutions to the Public School Teacher Shortage," January 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Forty-seven Arkansas school districts have asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to reopen a school funding case that had appeared to be settled, reported

The case was decided in 2002. As described by, the court found that in Arkansas, "State government had a constitutional duty to provide a properly funded school system, with money shared equally among districts and their students." By 2004, legislative changes to school funding had apparently satisfied the court's mandate, but the 47 districts asked the state supreme court last week to reopen the case on grounds that the state Legislature had failed since 2004 to maintain school spending as a legislative priority. reported that in asking the court to take up the case again, David Matthews, one of the attorneys for the districts, argued, "If you don't take up that mantle, you need to know that education reform will be solely at the whim of the Legislature." The state, in turn, defended its current system. "The system that is in place right now is constitutional," Arkansas Chief Deputy Attorney General Timothy Gauger said, according to The state argued that districts unhappy with the Legislature's recent appropriations needed to file a new lawsuit, rather than plead for a reopening of the previous one. reported that 17 other school districts filed challenges to the Arkansas Legislature's school spending, but did so in a separate case.

SOURCES:, "Arkansas education fight back in court," May 20, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Arkansas and Ohio Should Emulate Michigan's Proposal 'A,'" April 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Proposal A,' 10 Years Later," February 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding, Proposal A, and Property Taxes," November 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Proposal A provided more money, but better management needed," Fall 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Finance Reform Lessons from Michigan," October 2001

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

DETROIT — The Detroit News reported that the U.S. Department of Education last week explicitly endorsed allowing student loan consolidations for students who are still enrolled in school and who have government-backed student loans with private lenders. Such loan consolidations are already allowed for students who are enrolled in school and who received loans directly from the government, but federal policy had been unclear about whether students with loans from private lenders enjoyed the same privilege.

Loan consolidation requires students to forgo a standard six-month grace period before beginning repayment after graduation. Still, new student loan rates, which will be announced on July 1, may rise to 5 percent, while the current interest rate of 2.77 percent would be available to students who consolidate their loans now. "Particularly for students who are in graduate school, people with a high balance, it would make a difference," said U.S. Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Sally Stroup, according to The News. Students must submit loan consolidation applications to private lenders by June 30.

The News also reported the view of Bob Shireman, director of The Institute for College Access and Success at the University of California at Berkeley. Shireman argued that although the government's announcement could help borrowers, it could potentially increase expenses to the government, as well.

The Detroit News, "Students may get big break on loans," May 18, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Student Loans and the High Cost of College," November 1997

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Burnley withdrew his name from the list of candidates for superintendent of the Hillsborough County, Fla., school district, the Detroit Free Press reported. He made the move last week on the night before the school district's board voted to fill the position.

According to the Free Press, Burnley said he withdrew after reflecting on the long hours the new post would have required. The Hillsborough County district includes the city of Tampa and has a total enrollment of 202,000 students. The school board reportedly voted to award the superintendent position to the district's chief facilities officer.

Burnley's contract with the Detroit Public Schools ends June 30.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit schools leader drops bid to be Fla. Superintendent," May 21, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The $200 Million Question," January 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly With Detroit's Kids," July 15, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Ironic Choices," November 29, 2004

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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