Contents of this issue:
  • Report: Michigan ranks 16th in nation for school funding
  • Napoleon schools contract for custodial work
  • Ex-DPS Superintendent indicted on bribery charges
  • Ecorse schools consider background checks on volunteers
  • Grand Rapids schools says it cannot afford nature center
  • Win a gift certificate

WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan ranks 16th among states in educational spending and has seen a steady increase in the amount spent over the last decade, according to Booth Newspapers.

Michigan ranked 15th in 2003-2004 by spending $9,072 per-pupil but has moved to 16th, spending $9,329. In 1997-1998, Michigan ranked 12th in per-pupil spending, Booth Newspapers reported.

"Other states are investing in education, and we're disinvesting in education," Tom White, executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials, told Booth Newspapers.

Others say spending is not what needs to be measured, but achievement.

"When you look at the state as a whole, the problem is not a lack of spending," Richard Studley, spokesman for the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce told Booth Newspapers. "The problem is a lack of clear focus on education excellence. Having the most expensive schools in the country is not a race Michigan can afford to win."

Booth Newspapers, "Michigan drops to 16th among states for school funding," May 29, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Money Myth," Feb. 23, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Rally for the Classroom, Not the Budget Process," June 21, 2006

NAPOLEON, Mich. — The Napoleon schools will save nearly $1 million over three years after the board of education voted 7-0 to hire a private cleaning company. The district will save $305,000 a year by contracting with Enviro-Clean, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot. This is equivalent to an effective per-pupil funding increase of $184.

The district will spend almost half of what it currently spends for cleaning services. Members of the custodial staff picketed at the board meeting because they were upset with the district's unwillingness to discuss the plan, The Citizen Patriot reported.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, school districts under Michigan law do not have to negotiate with employee unions about decisions to contract for non-instructional services.

"We have no choice," Superintendent Jim Graham told The Citizen Patriot. "This happens to be one area that we can cut that does not affect our commitment to students."

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "District hires firm to replace workers," May 30, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Effective Funding Increase from Competitive Contracting in Selected Michigan School Districts," June 5, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "(3) Prohibited Subjects" in "A Collective Bargaining Primer for Michigan School Board Members," Feb. 28, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Do private employees in public schools provide the same quality of service as public employees in public schools? Yes," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Profit has a role in public schools," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Map: School contracting continues to grow," Feb. 23, 2007

DALLAS — Former Detroit Public Schools Superintendent William F. Coleman III has been indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges associated with technology contracts while he was employed with the Dallas Independent School District, according to The Detroit News.

Another former Dallas school official, Ruben B. Bohuchot, who served as the district's chief technology officer, was indicted with Coleman and Frankie Logyang Wong, a Texas businessman, The News reported.

Coleman was charged with creating a company that allegedly received $256,850 from Wong's company, Micro Systems Engineering Inc. Bohuchot and Coleman then allegedly attempted to steer technology contracts to the company, according to The News. In October, the DPS school board took action against Coleman, charging that he misled them about his relationship with a technology vendor bidding for a contract, The News reported.

Bertram Marks, Coleman's attorney, has received no formal notice of an indictment and said Coleman is trying to fight corruption.

"If there is an indictment, I am absolutely positive that Mr. Coleman will be fully exonerated. Mr. Coleman is cooperating with the FBI to root out corruption. He certainly has not been a part of the corruption," Marks told The News.

The Detroit News, "Ex-Detroit schools chief Coleman indicted on bribery charges in Texas," May 29, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Ex-DPS superintendent files lawsuit against district," May 15, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS creates inspector general position," May 8, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS to re-bid IT contract," Oct. 17, 2006

ECORSE, Mich. — The Ecorse school district is considering conducting background checks on its volunteers after a volunteer basketball coach was arrested with regard to a teen's death from a drug overdose, according to The Detroit News.

Deleon Alexander II, 28, is charged with providing cocaine and ecstasy to Stephanie Brown, 17, which reportedly resulted in her death from an overdose, The News reported. The state requires all school employees to undergo a background check, but The News reported that not many districts perform them on volunteers. Ecorse did not run a background check on Alexander, but may consider implementing a measure to ensure the safety of students who interact with volunteers, according to The News.

"They probably will (require background checks) after this," Ecorse board Trustee Alean Nixon told The News. "He's not an employee... (so) we did not do a background check. Maybe in the future it would be a good idea."

Some districts, like Flint, Wyandotte and Livonia, complete background checks on some or all of their volunteers. Donna Oser, executive director of the Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association, said districts should strongly consider implementing screening policies for volunteers, according to The News.

"Our first concern is always the safety of children," Oser told The News. "But it's also important to encourage parents to be involved with their child's school. It's important for districts to develop policies that will not create impediments for volunteering."

The Detroit News, "Death prompts look at volunteers," May 28, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "List of convicts working in schools slated for end of March," March 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Still Have an Option to Check Kids' Safety," Feb. 2, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "The three P's of school safety: parents, prevention, and police," Nov. 1, 2000

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After three years of operating the Blandford Nature Center, Grand Rapids Public Schools is trying to back out of a 20-year lease and turn control over to a nonprofit organization, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district hopes to turn the nature center over to Mixed Greens, a group that teaches students how to grow gardens and learn about the outdoors. Former Superintendent Bert Bleke leased the nature center for $1 a year with the help of donors to cover the rest of the cost. But a tight budget has made cutting staff and programs the only way to preserve the nature center, The Press reported.

"As a taxpayer, I have to applaud the schools for getting out of the nature center business," Mixed Greens Executive Director Lisa Rose Starner told The Press. "And if they go this route, they'll be finding a creative way to retain the programming that attracted them to the center in the first place."

The Grand Rapids Press, "Blandford too costly for GR schools," June 1, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan Education Report introduces a new online forum dedicated to discussing Michigan education issues. Available at, the site features timely news about Michigan schools, a variety of open forums and the chance to participate in an opinion survey on a current education issue. Those who register and comment on stories will be entered in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate.

The summer 2007 edition of Michigan Education Report readers will find articles about:

  • research concluding that consolidating school districts is not the best way to save money in education;

  • the first year at one of Michigan's newest private schools, Trinitas Classical School in Grand Rapids;

  • incentive pay programs for teachers in Michigan districts;

  • schools using radio, television and billboards to market themselves;

  • an update on the country's first statewide school voucher program in Utah.

Michigan Education Report is available online at

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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