[Photo of Michael Van Beek]

Michael Van Beek

Director of Research

Michael Van Beek is director of research for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He joined the Mackinac Center in June 2009 as director of education policy. He has authored several studies for the Center as well as analysis and commentaries that have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, The Grand Rapids Press, The Oakland Press and elsewhere.

For four years prior to working at the Center, Van Beek taught political philosophy, government, economics and history at North Hills Classical Academy, a private primary and secondary school in Grand Rapids. He also served one year as a North Hills assistant administrator.

Van Beek obtained his Master of Arts in American history from Purdue University and his Bachelor of Arts in history from Hope College.

He lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife, three children, a dog and an assortment of semi-domesticated creatures, including a coyote named Gandalf, a fox named Felix and the Harrisons, a family of red-tail hawks.

Why the 'Michigan2020' Plan is a Poor Investment

More subsidies for college won't increase graduation rates. … more

School Districts in Deficit are Top Heavy

Spend 43 percent more on administration than state average. … more

Remove Needless Mandates on Teachers

Additional training has shown no impact on student performance. … more

Public School Welcomes All

(Unless they're from Detroit.) … more

Digital Learning Day

How schools are using technology to improve education. … more

MEA's Hyperbole About Cyber Charter Schools

Teachers union math gets a failing grade. … more

Online Charter School Spending Trends

How do they compare to brick-and-mortar schools? … more

Bureaucrats vs. Parents — Who Should Choose Where Children Are Educated?

The Unequal School Funding Myth

The latest in an ongoing video series. … more

Commentary: Charter Schools Face Discrimination in Michigan

The Debate About Online Charter Schools

Objections are easily refuted. … more

'We Found a Place Where Our Children's Safety Would Never Be An Issue'

National School Choice Week

Good for parents, student, teachers and taxpayers. … more

Opposition to Online Charters Misguided

Savings can benefit students and educators. … more

A Digital Learning Success Story

Suttons Bay Schools an innovation leader. … more

Schools Should Fund Learning, Not Insurance Companies

Connecticut School Leaders Propose Bold Reforms

Michigan counterparts should take notice. … more

Arbitrary Cap on Charter Schools Lifted

Mackinac Center introduced concept in 1988. … more

School Choice Advocates Cheer Lift of Charter Public School Cap

Cherry-Picking Charter School Research

Broader look at data needed. … more

Charters Increase Special-Ed Enrollment

Decrease in special-ed enrollment for conventional schools. … more

The Difference With Charter Schools

Parents, not politicians, should make the choice. … more

Free Press Misleads on Charter Schools

Editorial claims parental choice is "dangerous." … more

Brookings Institution: Expand School Choice

Michigan should pay attention to study's findings. … more

It's for the Children

Does the MEA only care about certain students? … more

Digital Learning Growth in Michigan

Legislators should pay attention to increased enrollment. … more

Nation's Report Card

Bad news for Michigan. … more

Michigan's 'Very Best' Schools Only 'Above Average'

Global report card paints stark picture. … more

Commentary: Research Shows Parental Choice Works

Jalen Rose: An Education Entrepreneur

Former basketball star opens charter public school. … more

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Spend $25 Billion to Fix It

Virtual learning should mean less money, not more, spent on schools buildings. … more

Professionalizing the Teaching Profession

Right-to-work law for teachers on the horizon. … more

A Smaller Cadillac Is Still a Cadillac

New government employee insurance cap is still 46 percent higher than private-sector average. … more

Michigan School Exporting Education to China

More Schools Save by Ditching Unionized Insurance, Busing, Food and Janitors

Money saved can be devoted to educating students. … more

August in Michigan Is Teacher Freedom Month

How teachers can resign from their union. … more

No Cutting and Complaining Here: Oxford Schools Bucks the Trend

One school district in Michigan is expanding learning opportunities for kids through online learning. … more

Time to Take School Choice in Michigan to the Next Level

Will Schools Keep Ignoring Teacher Effectiveness When Setting Pay?

Make student learning and teacher effectiveness count more than than mere longevity. … more

Politicians: Stop Blocking the Online Charter School Door!

Just one group benefits from state caps on online charter school enrollment. … more

Measuring Charter Public School Performance

Measuring charter school performance is fundamentally different than measuring conventional school performance. … more

Saline Schools’ ‘Last in, First out’ Victims

Union's interests trumps those of teachers, students and parents. … more

Revenues and Spending of Michigan's Urban, Suburban, Town and Rural School Districts

In the passionate debates over providing equal educational opportunity for all children, it’s frequently argued that large financial inequities create challenges for many public schools, particularly those in lower-income urban areas. This study compares the revenues and operating expenditures of Michigan’s urban, suburban, town and rural school districts. The study’s findings provide a new and unique perspective on Michigan’s school districts. … more

Beyond the Classroom

Michigan School Spending Hits All-Time High

Per-pupil public school spending set a new record in 2010. … more

Schools Use Creative Accounting to Exaggerate Fiscal Challenges

School Districts Ignoring Labor Market Signals

Schools need to apply law of supply and demand to teachers. … more

Should Education Money Only be for K-12?

The truth behind the School Aid Fund. … more

Average Teacher Salary in Michigan Rises Again

According to new data just released by the Michigan Department of Education for the 2009-2010 school year, the average teacher salary in Michigan has risen for the 13th consecutive year. This most recent data puts the figure at $63,024. … more

'Controlling' School Health Insurance Costs, Local Style

Four days after Gov. Rick Snyder recommended a 2011-2012 budget that would reduce state aid for schools by $300 per pupil from this year’s levels, the Petoskey school board proposed a plan to reduce the district’s teacher and support staff health insurance costs. Its timidity reveals why the public school establishment finds even the prospect of modest state funding reductions so traumatic. … more

It Shouldn’t Take a Hurricane to Revitalize Detroit Public Schools

Michigan Schools Still Well-Funded Under Governor's Plan

Even if Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed spending reductions on K-12 schools passes the Republcian Legislature, Michigan taxpayers will still supply schools with more money per pupil than taxpayers in 28 other states. … more

Virtual Learning in Michigan’s Schools

MichiganScience is a Mackinac Center quarterly magazine that helps meet the need for accurate and accessible information about the increasingly complex scientific issues confronting voters and lawmakers. The magazine reflects the idea that even the most technical scientific policy issues can be discussed with lively prose and compelling visuals. … more

The MEA's Mob Mentality: If We All Strike, You Probably Won't Be Fired

In contemplating a statewide teacher strike, the Michigan Education Association appeals to peer pressure in advising its members on whether to approve an illegal strike. … more

Analysis: Schools Health Insurance and Corporate Welfare

A Virtual Learning Revolution

Michigan Ain't Wisconsin, But Their Teachers Unions Share a Playbook

Gov. Rick Snyder has stated that “Michigan is not Wisconsin,” and that he doesn’t want to pick a fight with unions. Yet when it comes to the costs of school employee benefits, Michigan is eerily similar to Wisconsin, and in both states the root cause is also the same: government employee union collective bargaining privileges. … more

School Funding Testimony

Update of New Teacher Contracts

Many school boards around the state are attempting to renegotiate current contracts or negotiate new ones with their local teachers unions to contain costs. Here's a brief recap of some of the new contracts agreed to recently. … more

Fact Check: Warren Schools' False Budget Cut Claim

The practice is widespread. Teachers union officials and even U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have employed similar "creative" definitions of fiscal terms to support their talking points. … more

The Unstable Funding Myth

Benefits or Jobs: Schools, Legislature Must Choose

School districts and the Legislature have a choice: Protect bloated benefits, cut staff and eliminate programs, or enact reforms that make it possible to put benefits in balance while preserving educational services. … more

Average Eaton Rapids Teacher’s Salary $55,826 ; Contributes Just 2 Percent for Health Plan

Lake Orion Teachers Health Benefits 52 Percent Above Private-Sector Average

Can School Choice Work in Detroit?

Critics of school choice often complain that parents aren’t capable of making wise decisions when selecting a school for their children, and so the government should choose for them. Many parents in perhaps the nation’s worst urban school district, however, recently showed that they are eager to find good school alternatives. … more

Virtual Learning in Michigan's Schools

Virtual learning doesn’t just involve using computers at school; it involves a new method of instructing students. Virtual instruction is provided by teachers working remotely or by specially designed software — or both — and delivered to students through computers or the Internet. In some cases, supplementary instruction might be provided by a local teacher, but the essence of virtual learning is that students no longer need to share a classroom with a teacher to learn.
Virtual learning is not for every student, but it’s not science fiction, either. Right now in Michigan, it’s being used by thousands of students in hundreds of virtual courses in urban, rural and suburban school districts. In fact, Michigan has been seen as a national leader in virtual learning.
This study analyzes the financial costs and academic benefits of virtual learning, and it explores how this innovation could further benefit Michigan public school students. … more

A Virtual Learning Revolution

National School Choice Week

National School Choice Week kicks off today. Michigan, once considered a school choice leader, should continue expanding learning opportunities for all students. … more

Michigan Spends More on Teacher Benefits Than Most Other States

Of all the funds spent on “instruction” in Michigan public schools in 2008, 28 percent went to employee fringe benefits. Only five states devoted more of their resources to benefits; the national average was 22 percent. … more

School Funding in Michigan: Common Myths

Michigan’s state-run school system is the largest and most expensive government service taxpayers support. It employs more than 350,000 people who work in one of the more than 4,100 different entities. The total amount this system expends each year adds up to more than $20 billion. Given the enormity and complexity of the system, it’s no surprise that a number of myths exist about how public schools are funded. … more

Poor ROI for K-12 Schools in Michigan and the US

The United States spends more on K-12 schooling than any other industrialized nation save for Switzerland, but gets mediocre results at best on internationally benchmarked standardized tests. Michigan mirrors this same situation: This state spends the 16th most among the states on schools, but its students consistently score near the bottom on national standardized tests. … more

Update on New Teacher Contracts

Three Michigan districts recently signed new contracts with their teachers union. All three include across-the-board pay raises for teachers for this year and the next. Each district also modified the type of health insurance package it offers teachers, all which are still much more generous than than can be found on average in the private sector. … more

Plymouth-Canton Teacher Contract Summary

Teachers in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools contribute nothing to the cost of their health insurance premiums, and in 2009 received an average salary of $66,644. The local school union president is also carried as a full-time employee on the district's books, but is not required to teach or provide any other service — she collects a salary and full benefits but is granted full "release-time." These are among the highlights in the current collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the district and the local arm of the Michigan Education Association union. … more

How to Save $500 Million on Michigan Schools

Michigan could save around $500 million if public school employees contributed the same percentage toward their employer-provided health insurance benefits as federal workers do, on average. The reform would generate savings of more than $300 per pupil. … more

The Underfunded Myth

Warren Woods School District Pays Nearly Double the Private-Sector Average for Health Insurance

Three school districts in the state recently agreed to new contracts with their teachers union. Warren Woods continues to pay an exhorbitant amount for health insurance, while Saugatuck saved money by just switching insurance providers. … more

Are Intermediate School Districts Bloated?

Traverse City Schools Set Transparency Precedent

ISD Bloat Redux

ISD Bloat Redux

My recent analysis showing that staffing levels at intermediate school districts grew significantly over the last decade — even as the number of students in Michigan public schools fell — drew some criticism from Dr. David A. Spitzley, an employee of the Washtenaw ISD. Dr. Spitzley points out that the data provided by the Michigan Department of Education's Center for Educational Performance and Information are inconsistent over time in some respects. Nevertheless, no matter how one slices the data, it still shows that ISD payrolls expanded while enrollment contracted. … more

Traverse City Schools Set Transparency Precedent

Traverse City Area Public Schools is raising transparency to a new level, and setting an example that other Michigan school districts should follow. … more

Brighton Teacher Contract Summary

Brighton Teacher Contract Summary

Brighton Area Schools is one of only 32 Michigan districts currently operating with a budget deficit, even though it takes in more than $8,000 per pupil. According the Michigan Department of Education, the district overspent by 17 percent last year. A good place to start looking for ways to get out of the red would be the teachers union contract, since the costs contained therein consume almost 70 percent of the district's general funds. … more

Analysis: Detroit Students Hostages to the Union

Detroit Students Hostages to the Union

A "multidimensional" crisis that's been unfolding for decades may finally be coming to a head in the Detroit Public Schools: The district is virtually bankrupt, the schools are unsafe and they generate the worst student achievement results in the nation. And now, Robert Bobb, the governor-appointed emergency financial manager, is waving the white flag, asking the state to borrow against future revenues to bail out the district. Doing so would be unfortunate for both students and state taxpayers. … more

Saugatuck School District Saves Big on Insurance

The Grand Rapids Press reports that teachers in Saugatuck Public Schools will no longer be provided with health insurance from the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an arm of the state's largest teachers union. The district instead will purchase employee insurance from Priority Health, a move that is said to save $3,800 per teacher annually. If similar savings were extended to all of Michigan's teachers it would amount to $394.4 million. … more

More on the School Employee Concession Myth

In a recent Detroit Free Press article, Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association argued that school employees have become victims to considerable budget cuts. Check out this latest video for more information. … more

Huron Valley Teacher Contract Summary

Huron Valley Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in Huron Valley Schools was $62,439 in 2009, and teachers contribute nothing to the cost of their health insurance premiums. The district pays about 51 percent more than the average employer in the state for employee health insurance. Huron Valley also pays teachers who opt-out of health coverage $3,281 annually. The local union president is fully released from all teaching duties (without loss of pay or benefits) to conduct union business. These are among the highlights in the current collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the district and the local arm of the Michigan Education Association union. … more

The School Employee Concessions Myth

Harbor Beach Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in Harbor Beach Community Schools was $58,229 in 2009, second highest in Huron County. Teachers contribute nothing to the cost of their health insurance premiums, which cost the district $19,761 per teacher for a family plan. These are among the highlights in the current collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the district and the local arm of the Michigan Education Association union. … more

Cadillac Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in Cadillac Public Schools was $55,617 in 2009, and teachers contribute nothing to the cost of their health insurance. The district pays $220 to employees for simply not enrolling in the school health insurance plan. These are among the highlights in the current collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the district and the local arm of the Michigan Education Association union. … more

Is College Accessibility Really a Problem?

Both of Michigan's gubernatorial candidates favor spending more on higher education and claim more students need to gain access to college. Yet more students are enrolled in Michigan colleges than ever before, and a larger portion of Michigan residents are enrolled in college than other similarly sized states. … more

ISD Bloat?

The number of school employees for each student in Michigan's public school system has been rising for most of the past 15 years, and stands now at one employee for every eight students. This is surprising given Michigan's declining economy over the last decade, and the school establishment's perpetual complaints of being underfunded… more

ISD Bloat?

The number of school employees for each student in Michigan's public school system has been rising for most of the past 15 years, and stands now at one employee for every eight students. This is surprising given Michigan's declining economy over the last decade, and the school establishment's perpetual complaints of being underfunded… more