Candidates Differ on Funds, Tests
Gongwer News Service, October 13, 2004
For more articles like this
Though there is
some question what it will matter on Election Day, given past
voting trends for the race, the four major party candidates for
the State Board of Education are working to stake out their
positions on the state of schools in Michigan and on the changes
needed to improve them.
As would be expected from their party affiliations, Marianne
McGuire of Detroit and Herb Moyer of Temperance, the two
incumbent Democrats, support additional funding for schools and
are skeptical of expanding charter schools. Nancy Danhof of East
Lansing and Robert Smart of Grand Rapids are skeptical of the
need for more taxes to support schools and see value to
expanding charters in the state.
But all see the need for strong public schools and for the board
to take more of a role in developing education policy in the
"I ran eight years ago on a platform of wanting to enhance and
support public education," Ms. McGuire, a retired teacher, said.
"While I think we've come a long way in that area over the last
eight years, I think we still have a lot to do."
Mr. Moyer, a retired superintendent, said just the willingness
to run for the board shows his commitment to improving schools
around the state. He noted that, while the post pays $2,400 a
year, most candidates spend about $20,000 to win it.
"I have a real passion for public education," he said. "This is
a natural for me."
Mr. Moyer said he also had a unique viewpoint to bring to the
board. While he does come from an education background, he is
the only former superintendent to sit on the board since it was
restructured under the 1963 constitution. "So I think I have an
element of credibility to share some of this expertise," he
Ms. Danhof, a member of the East Lansing Board of Education,
said she sees the state board as having similar
responsibilities, but from a different viewpoint.
"We have the ability, because of the vision we have, because
you're sitting where you're sitting and have a view of all of
the school districts; that's where you can start making good
public policy decisions and leverage the money you do have at
the state level," Ms. Danhof said.
Mr. Smart said schools are key to the economic development in
the state. "The central issue I've been focusing on is
integrating our education effort with our economic development
effort," he said, noting both that the quality of the education
system can attract business and excessive tax costs can
"I'm the only one who comes out of a private business
background," Mr. Smart said. "I'm hoping that the diversity of
background that I bring to the board is an opportunity for other
people in the state to say, 'Here's somebody who's not totally
out of an education background that might be a voice for things
that might be of concern to me.'"
Here is what the candidates had to say on major education
SCHOOL FUNDING: All of the candidates agreed resources for
schools would be a key issue in the coming years, both
determining how much schools need and how those needs are
Mr. Moyer said, despite assertions to the contrary, school
budgets are about as lean as is possible. "Being a former
superintendent, you have to be a fiscal conservative to
survive," he said. "A lot of opponents of public education try
to paint us as spendthrifts but it's just not true."
He said the recommendations to take another look at the school
finance reforms of Proposal A of 1994 are as much to restore
funding that should be there as they are to find new revenue
where it is needed. "The Legislature has eroded some of the tax
base that was originally in Proposal A," he said.
Ms. McGuire, noting it is the Legislature that has the authority
to deal with financing, would recommend implementing programs to
collect more sales tax on Internet and catalog sales, urged tax
increases to covers schools' needs and called for a halt in
further income tax reductions. "We haven't had a raise in
property taxes in 10 years," she said in supporting a proposal
by the Michigan State University Center for Education Policy
recommendation for a 2-mill increase in the state school tax.
Ms. McGuire also said Proposal A also needs to be adjusted to
provide more long-term stability to school funding, while also
saying she awaits a board-commissioned study that will show what
it costs to run public schools. "We've done a good job of
closing in on districts that were really suffering, but with the
future looking so unsure, I think we shouldn't be afraid to get
in there and work on it to make sure that funding is secure, to
make sure schools aren't in a position to have to go begging
every year," she said.
Mr. Smart said there is still room to look at costs before
giving schools more money. "Where schools have been hurt is the
rapid increase in health care and pension costs that have
outpaced inflation and the budgetary expectations of the school
districts," he said. "We need to take a look at some options in
He argued, for instance, that a statewide medical benefits plan
could reduce costs for that service. And he urged changing
teachers to a defined contribution pension system, arguing over
the long term it would not be a reduction in benefits because of
the historically strong earnings the Department of Treasury has
generated on the pension funds.
SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE: While he said there is room to make the
case to the voters if studies do show a need for more money in
the system, Mr. Smart said raising taxes for schools without
first looking at more cuts and at the actual needs of schools
would hurt the state in the long run. "We going to end up with a
system which drives businesses and jobs away," he said.
Noting Michigan is one of fewer than 10 states that do not give
statewide support for infrastructure improvements, Mr. Smart
said a study for the department on school infrastructure needs
could potentially generate arguments for increasing taxes, or at
least changing methods of funding school buildings.
Mr. Smart said support for school construction and repair would
also fit into his vision of stronger ties between education and
economic development. "Every citizen of the state has a stake
not just in the success of their local school system but of the
education system as a whole because that's going to attract the
business," he said. "So we need to be concerned that we have
adequate facilities in every community of the state, not just
those community that have the tax base and the local will to
support a better infrastructure."
Ms. Danhof said there needs to be statewide policy on addressing
school infrastructure to ensure not only that buildings are safe
and weather-tight, but that they will accommodate the
communications equipment needed to run a modern school district
and classroom. She said eliminating disparities in
infrastructure between districts is a key role for the state
board to play.
She said East Lansing was able to approve a bond issue to make
needed renovations at its schools. "There are many districts
that for whatever reason have not been successful and able to
get that done, but it does not preclude the need to get that
done. We need to address that at a statewide level."
ACHIEVEMENT/ASSESSMENT: Ms. Danhof said accountability of
schools is the key to improving education and erasing any
performance gaps between schools or groups within schools. "If
we're not accountable, you can legislate all you want, you can
put in all the money you want, you can train teachers all you
want (but scores will not improve)," she said.
And she said that accountability should extend beyond the work
being done in the classroom to also being sure that parents have
the resources they need to ensure their children come to school
ready to learn. "They need to come prepared to work hard and be
able to do that," she said.
Mr. Smart said the board needs to look beyond current public
school financing and programs to find ways to meet student's
needs. "The state board needs to take a look at all the
education resources available and see how we can integrate those
programs to get the best outcomes possible," he said.
For instance, he said public schools for some time have been
providing services such as transportation for private schools
but have not looked at what services those schools could provide
to the public schools. "We also may be able to use some
resources the private school systems have as our public schools
are trying to bring the most highly qualified teachers to the
students," he said.
Ms. McGuire said closing achievement gaps has been a primary
focus of the board for some time. "I think we've come a long
ways in that area as well, but we've got a long way to go," she
And Ms. McGuire said the state is headed in the right direction
with its current programs to assist schools. "I think we've done
a lot by providing coaches to go into the schools," she said.
"So we're looking at seeing a lot of progress."
Mr. Moyer said continuing improvements will require the right
education policies and he acknowledged that, under the current
state structure, it is the Legislature, not the board, that
truly sets education policy. He said the board now needs to work
harder to be recognized as a resource for legislators as they
develop that policy. "We've got some insight and some value and
we need to be capitalized on more," he said.
Among those policies must be some way to keep more experienced
teachers in struggling schools and providing mentors for new and
struggling teachers, Ms. Danhof said. "We have to make sure
people who have figured out how to deal in high priority schools
are in high priority schools," she said. "Too often what we get
are our new teachers who need jobs. They need help."
M.E.A.P.: Part of the accountability of schools is being able to
compare their progress to other similar schools and students to
see which and who are actually struggling, Ms. Danhof said. And
she said that is why the state needs to adopt the ACT as its
high school test in place of the current Michigan Educational
Assessment Program high school test, a position on which she
appeared to stand alone among the candidates.
She said the MEAP tests at that level do not provide the
information people want about students. "What most people want
to know is how successful will students be when they graduate
from school. The ACT can do that," she said, adding that the
MEAP test is more defined by whether students do well in meeting
the state's standards.
The change would also allow Michigan to better measure itself
against the rest of the nation as it implements No Child Left
Behind, she said and that additional costs for conversion could
be minimized by aligning the high school MEAP with the ACT and
Work Keys tests.
Mr. Smart said he would not recommend looking at any changes to
the MEAP without more study. "The MEAP test has had some
disappointments, but it is specifically designed to measure the
achievement of the model curriculum that the state board adopted
back in '96 so it is more aligned with the recommended
instruction pattern in the state," he said. "The ACT has the
advantage of being a national test, but the state department has
said if we went to that system there would be additional costs."
Both Ms. McGuire and Mr. Moyer said the board had already
recommended against any change in the testing because of the
projected cost of the change.
Ms. McGuire said the state and the nation have gone too far with
testing, or at least with how the results of the tests are used.
"I think it's good to have goals and it's good to have a
standardized test and it's good to have a goal of having high
quality teachers," Ms. McGuire said. "We don't feel schools
should be punished for not meeting AYP, that they should be
entitled to some help."
CHARTER SCHOOLS: The candidates differed on whether public
school academies were contributing to those efforts to improve
Ms. McGuire said there should be no new charters issued until
there are more controls over how the schools operate.
"I am really in favor of charter schools from a standpoint of
qualitative, not quantitative," Mr. Moyer said. He said the
state should be ensuring the charters that are running are
helping students rather than trying to make charters available
to anyone wanting to start a school.
"I'm extremely disappointed that the Legislature, after an
in-depth study by the McPherson Commission, has done nothing,"
Mr. Moyer said.
Michigan State University President Peter McPherson presided
over a commission that recommended a number of changes to the
governance of charter schools, few of which have been adopted as
charter opponents want the governance changes in place first,
while proponents want to simultaneously increase or remove the
cap on the number of charters allowed by universities.
Ms. Danhof said there might not be a need for additional
oversight of charter schools. "There is a process set in place
for charters. I'm not sure it's been equitably and consistently
applied," she said. "So before we start riding off on our horse
writing more legislation, we need to be sure what's currently on
the books is being done consistently."
"The whole question of limiting authorization is really not
necessary," Mr. Smart said. "If I opened a charter school and
nobody felt I could provide a superior educational experience,
my charter school is going to fail; or if you open a charter
school and it fails to deliver on its promises, it's just going
to go out of business."
And he argued that charters were needed to both give parents an
option and to ensure local school districts are making the
improvements they need to make.
Ms. Danhof said the larger failing in the charter school system
is collaboration. "If I have one wish for charter schools right
now, it's that authorizers, management companies, charter
schools and tradition schools would become collaborative
entities," she said. "We have to stop this warring attitude."
She said charters should be seen as competition for traditional
schools in that they provide alternatives to the programs
offered in the traditional schools, not simply a different place
to go. And she said the two types of schools should be learning
from each other, exchanging what works and what has not been
ELECTION FACTORS: In the end, it is not clear whether the
individual candidates' positions on charters or any other issues
will be as important as their party affiliation or their gender.
Historically, the candidate who takes the top of the ticket has
brought along the education board candidates of his or her
party. In the years where voters have split their ticket for the
State Board of Education, such as in 2000, they have voted for
With the presidential race expected to be close, it is unclear
whether party will be the defining issue, whether candidates
will be chosen by gender, or whether voters will actually try to
get to know the individual candidates.
"The public does not focus on this race," Mr. Smart said.
"Nobody can raise the resources, at least I don't know where
they are, to allow you to truly establish a separate identity.
... If it wasn't for the party structure I don't know how
anybody would get their message out."
While she acknowledged the trend that the education posts follow
the top of the ticket, Ms. Danhof said voters need to be
challenged to look beyond party monikers. "What this is about,
it's not parties, it's not politics, it's not about top of the
ticket; it's about what's best for students and families," she
Ms. McGuire said voters have been trying to learn more about the
education board candidates before casting their votes. "I think
people are more and more paying attention to who's running for
these seats," she said.
But all admitted they did not have funding to run much of a
statewide media campaign that would get their names out to
voters before they actually looked at a ballot. Instead, they
will utilize limited radio and newspaper advertisements in the
later stages of the campaign and appear before groups whenever
Only one of the three candidates, Mr. Smart, had any Internet
presence beyond listing on the party website. And he was not
listed on the Republican Party site as of Wednesday, though
Chris Paolino, party spokesperson, said that was an oversight.
Ginotti, Cox Pitch New Web Page for
MIRS, October 13, 2004
Republican House candidate Carlo GINOTTI and his old prosecutor
buddy, current Attorney General Mike COX, are proposing Michigan
set up a new web site that prices out prescription drugs on a
county and city-wide level.
The web site, similar to one set up in New York
www.nyagrx.org, would let
residents pick the type of medication they need and pick which
county they live in. With one click, residents can see which
stores sell the drug and at what price.
The idea is that residents can find the best price possible in
their area since drug prices are typically not advertised or
"Prescription drugs can vary significantly from one store to the
other and so it is critical that we provide an outlet for all
Michigan residents to find the best prices possible on the
prescription drugs that they use," said Ginotti, who is running
against Democrat Marie DONIAGAN in the 26th District of Royal
MIRS gave the New York AG's web site a try and randomly typed in
the availability of the drug "Atenolol" in Albany County. It
found several pharmacies that sold the medication, including the
Hannaford Pharmacy in Albany which sold 30 50-miligram tablets
for $7.99. Meanwhile, the GEM Drug Corporation in Albany sold
the same product for $29.30.
The New York web site also lets the user type in a zip code and
the number of miles he or she is willing to travel.
Michigan Senators Learn Of The Price Of
MIRS, October 13, 2004
The Senate Republican Caucus was the latest group of influential
Lansingites to listen to author Peter HUTCHINSON's take on how
state government should completely redo its budget-balancing
Most of the GOP caucus and some key staffers listened to
Hutchinson at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce restate his
belief that if lawmakers saw the budget in terms of prioritizing
individual programs instead of refereeing an annual Battle
Royale of special interests, the budget process would be much
Finding a person coming out of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce
today who had actually read Hutchinson's somewhat dry "The Price
of Government" from cover to cover was a challenge. But what was
read combined with today's presentation did get the wheels
turning for a group that is used to the traditional budgetary
process of fighting minor battles in individual departmental
"The Price of Government" has been Lansing's top seller for
several months now. Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM asked some of her key
subordinates to read it. The Chamber of Commerce brought
Hutchinson to speak to business leaders and other lawmakers a
couple months ago.
Part of the allure is the fact that Gov. Gary LOCKE in
Washington tried this approach in his state when the state
deficit hit $2.5 billion and it worked. Locke changed the game
by treating budget submissions as offers to deliver results at a
price and then balanced that offer with the citizens' needs. He
then "bought" those offers that had the biggest benefit at the
best price and left the rest on the Capitol floor.
The thought here is that state government is challenging these
individual programs to push themselves to deliver results and
prove their worth every year. Senate Majority Leader Ken SIKKEMA
(R-Wyoming) appears interested in trying this approach with the
ballooning Medicaid budget, but nothing formal has been
Michigan Court Orders Worker's Compensation to Child
Gongwer News Service, October 13, 2004
A company must pay worker's compensation benefits for the
daughter of an employee killed on the job even though the
unmarried worker had not provided support for the girl while he
was alive, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court, in a per curiam ruling released Wednesday, said
Prestige Painting must provide 500 weeks in benefits to the girl
because the law requires payments to the dependent children of
The employee, Scott Moore, was killed five months after the
birth of his daughter but had obtained a paternity test that
determined he was the father.
The company contended the girl should not be considered a
dependent because she was not economically dependent on Mr.
Moore when he died, an argument rejected by the worker's
compensation magistrate, but adopted by the Worker's
Compensation Appellate Commission when it denied benefits.
Judges Mark Cavanagh, Thomas Fitzgerald and Patrick Meter (Moore
v. Prestige Painting, COA docket No. 249924) said the worker's
compensation law states that a child under age 16 is
conclusively presumed to be dependent upon a parent, and noted a
1984 court decision declaring that the provision must be applied
to illegitimate children.
The commission had ruled that only children living with a worker
at the time of death are conclusively presumed to be dependents.
The court, holding that the commission applied the wrong section
of the law, which deals with employee injury rather than death,
said the law makes no mention that a child must be living with
the employee at the time of death to be conclusively presumed a
dependent. It also said only children over age 16 who are
incapacitated from earning due to physical or mental impairments
must be living with a worker at the time of death in order to
"To require payment of dependent benefits to the children of
former spouses (i.e., legitimate children) yet deny those
benefits to illegitimate offspring would violate constitutional
equal protection guarantees," the court said.
Ed Board Adopts Progress Standards For Districts
Gongwer News Service, October 12, 2004
GRAND RAPIDS - Despite complaints from larger districts that
they would be at a disadvantage from the policy, the State Board
of Education adopted a policy Tuesday that requires all
districts to adopt adequate yearly progress standards for at
least two of their school levels to be considered having met AYP
Under the policy, adopted on a 7-1 vote, some 75 percent of the
state's 624 school districts are expected to meet adequate
yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The
policy was a compromise between requiring districts to meet AYP
at the elementary, middle and high school levels or requiring
them to meet it at only one of those levels.
The district-wide report cards are expected to be released
November 4, along with the high school report cards.
The policy raised concerns for school districts because the
federal law requires that any district not meeting AYP two
consecutive years develop and implement a district improvement
plan. Any district that does not meet the standard for four
years be subject to some form of restructuring.
The proposal was also a concern for districts because the law
requires a district make AYP not only on the aggregate scores,
but also for each of nine subgroups. A district could
theoretically not make AYP, even though all of its schools make
AYP, because the whole district enough members of one or more
subgroups to be require the scores of those subgroups be
Chief academic officer Jeremy Hughes said the proposal would not
represent a lowering of standards. "We cannot ignore the
pressure on individual schools to make AYP. I can't imagine a
school district resting on its laurels," he said. "It's designed
to protect school districts from having to undergo serious
sanctions. There's got to be a little flexibility here."
"It's a balance between Michigan having some of the highest,
most rigorous standards and making sure it's fair and equitable
for schools," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom
Board member John Austin (D-Ann Arbor), who moved adoption of
the policy, had been one of several board members arguing
districts should be required to meet AYP at all three grade
levels to be considered having met the standard themselves. He
said the policy recommended by department staff was a compromise
between his concerns and those of the districts.
"If all the schools make it and the district does not, that's
something to reflect on," he said.
Board member Eileen Weiser (R-Ann Arbor) said the board also
needs to look at the public reaction to the numbers. The
one-of-three proposal would have 90 percent of districts meeting
the progress standard while the three-of-three proposal would
have only 47 percent meeting it.
"It's hard for me to imagine that we're at 90 percent of where
we need to be," Ms. Weiser said. "I don't think the state can
tolerate at this point the 47 percent."
School districts had proposed, at least for the first year, to
allow districts to be considered having met AYP if they had at
least one of three grade levels meeting the standard. "This
gives us another attempt to focus on the impact of one of the
subgroups," said Gail Green representing Macomb County school
superintendents. "This is not about trying to dodge
"AYP for the district is about punishment," Ms. Green said. "AYP
for the schools is about improvement."
Laura Wotruba with the Middle Cities Education Association
recommended a change that would allow the districts with the
most schools in subgroups to use the one-in-three standard while
all other districts would have to meet the two-of-three
Again, she said the proposal would minimize the effect of
subgroups on the districts that would be most affected.
Board member Marianne McGuire (D-Detroit) said anything more
than the one-of-three proposal would be too harsh on school
districts. "I think all of our schools are trying very hard,"
But Jim Sandy with the Michigan Business Leaders for Educational
Excellence said some districts have moved students around to
avoid having subgroups affect any of the individual buildings.
"That got the school off the hook, but it won't get the district
off the hook," he said.
While he said the district should be required to meet AYP at all
three levels, he said the two-of-three proposal was a "fair
HIGH SCHOOL AYP: While the board was discussing how to address
AYP measurements for school districts, 81 high schools in the
state were receiving the letters that they had not met AYP and
were subject to sanctions or improvement plans.
Mr. Hughes said the letters were going out before the report
cards as a compromise with the US Department of Education, which
had already cited the state for not having its high school
report cards out before the beginning of the school year as
required by federal law.
The agreement allows parents to be offered the option of
transportation to a different school or free tutoring services
earlier in the year than those services would have been offered
had the state waited until report cards had been issued.
Mr. Hughes also noted the number, which could grow as appeals of
AYP findings are addressed, are still a small percentage of the
1,000 schools in the state containing high school grade levels.
GAMING AMENDMENT: After a presentation by Lottery Commissioner
Gary Peters, the board adopted a statement Tuesday opposing
Proposal 04-1 that would require statewide and local referendums
for any expansion of gaming.
Mr. Peters told the board, as he has said since the proposal
made the ballot, that the popular vote requirements could
interfere with the Lottery's ability to develop new games and to
expand use of self-service terminals.
In the statement by board president Kathleen Straus
(D-Bloomfield Hills), on behalf of the board which adopted it
5-0, the board said the proposal "has the potential to have a
devastating effect on public education in Michigan." Ms. McGuire
abstained on the vote.
"If passed, provisions in Proposal 1 will greatly diminish the
revenues from state lottery games going to the state School Aid
Fund," the statement said. "With the structural deficit facing
Michigan, which has placed a severe strain on our schools,
students, and teachers, the potential for any loss of funds to
our schools and children would be devastating."
Mr. Peters said the lottery could potentially lose $602.1
million over the next three years between restrictions on
development of new games, loss of vendors because of restriction
son self-serve terminals and potential withdrawal from the Mega
Millions game if California joins and requires changes to the
"I don't think voters want to vote on any new game we come up
with," Mr. Peters said.
Mr. Austin said the state, and the board, should do what they
can to support the lottery. "If we're going to have gambling,
I'd rather it be under the auspices of the Lottery and benefit
the schools," he said.
"It's a bad bet," Mr. Watkins said of the proposal. "It's
clearly going to have an impact on the slice of pie for the
Proponents, who did not have a representative present to address
the board, have argued the proposal would not affect any lottery
games as long as the Lottery did not implement slot machines or
any electronic gaming or begin using table games.
SOCIAL STUDIES: The board at its December meeting will likely
discuss whether to add the Michigan Educational Assessment
Program social studies test to the Michigan Merit Award
qualifications. That was one of 10 recommendations from a task
force on the test accepted by the board on Tuesday.
The board asked the department to bring back policy statements
based on the recommendations to its December meeting.
The social studies test has raised concerns for several years
because of the consistently low scores at all levels of its
application and the task force suggested that adding the test to
the requirements for the merit award would draw attention to the
test and encourage better performance.
"To include it in the Merit scholarship would give it equity to
other subjects," said Gerald Stoltman, a professor at Western
Michigan University and co-chair of the task force. "It would
encourage students to perform on the social studies MEAP."
The task force also recommended that the department develop
grade level expectations for social students as it has for math,
science and language arts. Social studies curriculum is still
based grade range expectations.
And it called on the department to develop grade level tests on
the subject that would allow districts to measure annual
performance between the MEAP administrations.
The task force also called of improved professional development
for social studies, teachers and for an improved system to
communication program changes to teachers.
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