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Published in Print: January 15, 2003, as Capitol Recap

Capitol Recap

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The following offers education-related highlights of the recent legislative sessions. The enrollment figures are based on estimated fall 2001 data reported by the National Center for Education Statistics for prekindergarten through 12th grade in public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending include money for state education administration, but not federal, flow-through dollars, unless otherwise noted.


No New Charters as Engler Departs

Michigan legislators stretched their work almost into the last hours of 2002 without handing departing Gov. John Engler even a partial victory in his four-year effort to uncap the number of charter schools currently allowed in the state. Mr. Engler left office this month after three terms and was succeeded by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat who had been the state attorney general.

Gov. John Engler

15 Democrats
23 Republicans
52 Democrats
58 Republicans
1.7 million

An unsuccessful, last-ditch effort to at least get 15 more charter schools for Detroit closed a legislative year overshadowed by growing budget headaches.

Earlier in December, lawmakers approved the centerpiece of Mr. Engler's $460 million plan to bring proposed spending for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1 into line with current revenues. The plan entailed some $337 million in cuts to the state's $9.2 billion general-fund budget for fiscal 2003.

In the education budget adopted this past summer, the legislature cut some $48 million from programs for parental involvement and literacy, but preserved a $200-per-pupil hike in state aid to districts that was promised earlier. As a result, districts are expected get a minimum of $6,700 for each student, for a total state expenditure for school aid of about $11.5 billion this fiscal year, up slightly from $11.4 billion the previous year.

The cuts last month did strike one blow to precollegiate students and their families: High school students who earned postsecondary scholarships on the basis of their performance on state tests will receive their $2,500 awards over two years rather than one, saving the state $50 million in the current fiscal year.

Bills were approved that allow districts to contract with private companies for substitute teachers, and one that raises the possible penalties for school employees who engage in sex with 16- and 17-year-old students.

Also, the state school board approved an accountability plan that will give letter grades to all Michigan public schools based largely on state test scores, along with a host of other factors, including teacher qualifications and parent participation. The first grades are expected by this spring.

—Bess Keller

Vol. 22, Issue 18, Page 15

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