What began as analysis of savings figures in a Michigan State University study on school consolidation quickly turned into a national media story about plagiarism and flawed methodology. A Kalamazoo Gazette story on Aug. 15 outlined the study, authored by Sharif Shakrani, senior scholar at MSU's Education Policy Center. The Gazette also mentioned Mackinac Center analysis that found that school district consolidation savings would be minimal and that privatizing noninstructional services is one of the best ways to save schools money. Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek, in examining Shakrani's work, found large sections of apparently plagiarized material as well as questionable findings. The Grand Rapids Press and AnnArbor.com on Aug. 19 reported on the plagiarism concerns, followed a day later by The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, USA Today, Lansing State Journal, Traverse City Record-Eagle and WLNS-TV6 in Lansing. The State News, MSU's campus newspaper, reported Sept. 1 that an internal MSU review is ongoing.
Van Beek's series exploring school funding myths was cited by The Grand Rapids Press on July 20, while his analysis of the East Lansing teachers contract was mentioned in the Lansing State Journal the same day. Paul W. Smith, a talk show host on WJR AM760, mentioned the myths series in a Detroit News column July 30, and Van Beek's Op-Ed on the same topic appeared in the Aug. 7 Oakland Press. An Aug. 10 Detroit Free Press column cited the Center's school insurance database in calling for teachers to pay their fair share of their own health insurance costs. Michigan Public Radio on Aug. 12 invited Van Beek to explain why Michigan public schools do not lack funding.
A Michigan Capitol Confidential story about the city of Ann Arbor's decision to spend $850,000 on public art while at the same time announcing budget cuts that included layoffs for firefighters reached millions of readers when it was posted at the Drudge Report July 22. (See related story, "MichCapCon.com: Breaking Stories on Tea Party Shenanigans, Municipal Finance Mischief and More.")
LaFaive also wrote an Aug. 19 Op-Ed for the Detroit Free Press about the failures of the Michigan film subsidy program. The Grand Rapids Press on Aug. 2 and WZZM TV13 in Grand Rapids on Aug. 4 detailed charges being filed in the Hangar42 movie studio deal, a story LaFaive and Communications Specialist Kathy Hoekstra broke in May after a months-long investigation. The Detroit News July 8 cited James Hohman, fiscal policy analyst, who found that two years and millions of dollars in subsidies later, there were 10 percent fewer film-related jobs in Michigan than when the program started.