Online Learning; Unionized Government; Oil & Gas in Michigan - click to enlarge

The Online Learning Revolution

Virtual learning has the potential to revolutionize learning for many students, but legal restrictions threaten to limit this innovative tool for Michigan’s public school students. To discuss the future of online learning and the policies that affect it, the Mackinac Center this fall hosted three panel events in Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and Birmingham. More than 200 attended the panels and another 400 viewed via webcasts. Panelists included superintendents, representatives of online learning programs and national experts, as well as Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek. “More schools than ever are using online learning to supplement their programs,” said Van Beek, author of a 2011 study on virtual learning. “We are offering a valuable service in educating the public and providing a forum for school leaders to exchange ideas.”

The Future of Unionized Government

Government-sector unions have been at the center of several key legislative debates this year: enhanced emergency financial manager powers, limits on health benefits, restrictions placed on automatic-step salary increases — even the definition of what constitutes a public employee. Labor experts addressed these and other issues at the Center’s Oct. 5 Issues and Ideas forum on “The Future of Unionized Government.”

The panel included David Masud, labor and employment attorney; Tom Eaton, the main labor negotiator for Oakland County; Barbara Ruga, one of the state’s leading experts on collective bargaining in public education; and Paul Kersey, the Center’s director of labor policy. The forum was attended by several policymakers and legislative staffers. Altogether, more than 600 attended or viewed the event via webcast.

The Future of Oil and Gas in Michigan and the U.S

The future of the state’s and the nation’s energy supply was the timely topic of the Nov. 9 Issues & Ideas Forum, moderated by Senior Environmental Policy Analyst Russell Harding. Panelists included Hal Fitch, Director of the Office of Geological Survey, and Karen Alderman Halbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

As Harding says, “Federal and state government policy is subsidizing and mandating alternative energy, which is more expensive for consumers and business, while failing to  deliver new jobs. Meanwhile, there is a revolution in natural gas developments … [that] have the potential to provide significant new jobs in Michigan.”