[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.

Charlotte Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in Charlotte Public Schools was $52,408 in 2009, and most teachers paid less than 2 percent of the cost of their health insurance premium. The district also pays between $300 and $500 per month 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

Forest Hills Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in Forest Hills Public Schools was $64,460 in 2009, and teachers contributed nothing towards the cost of their health insurance (the state average is about 20 percent). The district also pays $41 per month to teachers who do not enroll 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

Teachers Picket as One of Michigan's Wealthiest School Districts Faces Big Deficit

Garden City Teacher Contract Summary

The total compensation for 165 teachers in the Garden City Public Schools exceeded $100,000 in 2009, and employees make zero contribution to the health insurance provided them by the district, which for a family plan runs about $18,400. 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

Teachers Picket as One of Michigan's Wealthiest School Districts Faces Big Deficit

Michigan and local taxpayers provided the West Bloomfield School District with more than $13,500 per student in 2008-2009, yet it still faces a $1.7 million deficit this year and $3.8 million next year. Employee compensation makes up 85 percent of the budget, so the district has asked teachers to help close the gap with revisions to their union contract. Their response was to picket, which they did Monday night. … more

How to Fix Flint Schools

The Flint Journal reports that members of a newly formed group called Flint Area Congregations Together (FACT) recently traveled to California, Virginia and New York looking for successful schools in areas with demographics similar Flint. While the aim is noble, the group could learn from a number of high-performing schools right at home in Flint. … more

Analysis: Pseudo School 'Cuts'

Pseudo School 'Cuts'

Whenever faced with the possibility of lower revenue, Michigan's public school establishment perennially cry they've already been "cut to the bone." Many people find the claim plausible given the state's "lost decade," so they may be surprised to discover how many school districts have consistently cut costs in recent years: Five. … more

Recaps of New Teachers Union Contracts

Many school boards around the state are attempting to renegotiate contracts with their local teachers unions to contain costs. Here's a brief recap of some of the new contracts agreed to this last month. … more

Consolidating School Districts Won’t Save Michigan $600 Million

Recaps of New Teachers Union Contracts

Many school boards around the state are attempting to renegotiate contracts with their local teachers unions to contain costs. Here's a brief recap of some of the new contracts agreed to this last month. … more

MEA: Merit Pay Works!

The Michigan Education Association opposes bonus pay for teachers who excel at improving student performance, but supports a merit system for teachers who excel at raising money for MEA politicking. … more

Analysis: We Still Need to Reform Teacher Pay

We Still Need to Reform Teacher Pay

A study released this week shows that merit pay didn't improve test scores for students in Nashville, Tenn. While they're no panacea for all that ails public schools, merit pay and other differential pay systems are improvements over the "single salary schedule" — the method by which nearly every school in the country pays its teachers. … more

Analysis: Consolidating School Districts Won’t Save Michigan $600 Million

Analysis: Detroit Public Schools Students Bear the Pain of Limited Educational Opportunities

A freshman at a Detroit high school experienced a disturbing first day: Two fellow students were shot on their way home from school Tuesday. Not surprisingly, he doesn't want to return to the school, but the state has effectively limited his chances of finding a better and safer learning environment. … more

Detroit Public Schools Students Bear the Pain of Limited Educational Opportunities

A freshman at a Detroit high school experienced a disturbing first day: Two fellow students were shot on their way home from school Tuesday. Not surprisingly, he doesn't want to return to the school, but the state has effectively limited his chances of finding a better and safer learning environment. … more

Michigan Public School Health Insurance Costs Soar Above National Trends

Michigan Public School Health Insurance Costs Soar Above National Trends

A new annual survey of health insurance shows a slowdown in rising costs of premiums, yet in Michigan's public schools, premiums are skyrocketing. … more

Common School Funding Myths

The Unstable Funding Myth

The Sales Tax and Lottery Myth

The School Employee Concession Myth

Analysis: Merit Pay in Mt. Clemens?

Merit Pay in Mt. Clemens?

A new union contract in Mt. Clemens ties satisfactory teacher evaluations to pay raises. To be sure, this represents a move towards breaking from the assembly line mentality of the single salary schedule in favor of a compensation model based in part on performance. But this is a very small baby step, and it's unlikely to have any impact on raising student achievement. … more

Plagiarism at MSU? You Decide.

Take a look at the MSU study and decide whether this should be considered plagiarism or not. … more

Mona Shores Teacher Contract Summary

MSU Consolidation Study Seriously Flawed

A new Michigan State University report on school consolidation appears to contain a substantial amount of plagiarized material, as reported by the Mackinac Center on Aug. 18. Diligent reviewers shouldn't stop there, however, because the study's methodology is also deeply flawed. Even if one believes that all districts would save money through consolidation, the conclusion that they could save $612 million is wildly exaggerated. … more

Plagiarism in MSU Study?

A recent study commissioned by Booth Newspapers and conducted by Michigan State University's Education Policy Center concludes that Michigan would save $612 million by consolidating school districts at the county level. While the methodology remains highly suspect, the study suffers from a far greater problem: It appears to contain significant amounts of plagiarized material. … more

'Edujobs' Will Hurt Public Schools

The public school bailout bill, doling out $318 million to Michigan, will ultimately do more harm than good. … more

Mona Shores Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in the Mona Shore Public Schools was $58,544 in 2009, and employees are not required to contribute anything to health insurance policies that cost the district some $12,800 annually. 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

"Edujobs" Fact Check, Part II

"Edujobs" Fact Check, Part II

Michigan's share of the loot from the "edujobs" bill passed by Congress this week will be about $310 million. We're told  that this will "save" 4,700 teacher jobs in Michigan. That's highly unlikely, for a couple of reasons. … more

'EduJobs' Fact Check

'EduJobs' Fact Check

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Debbie Stabenow were quick to praise the new "edujobs" bill passed by Congress as part of a "stimulus II" package. The $310 million is said to "save" 4,700 teacher jobs. That's unlikely. What is likely is that the public school bureaucracy merely gets another shot in the arm. … more

More MEA Obfuscation

The Michigan Education Association continues its perpetual campaign to obfuscate the facts about teacher pay. … more

The Unequal Funding Myth

St. Joseph Teacher Contract Summary

St. Joseph Teacher Contract Summary

The average teacher salary in the St. Joseph Public Schools was $57,861 in 2009, and employees are not required to contribute anything to health insurance policies that cost the district some $11,400 annually. 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

Holland Teacher Contract Summary

Most school districts are putting the finishing touches on next year's budget and anxiously awaiting word from Lansing about the exact dollar amount they'll get per pupil. While they're waiting, districts would be wise to give their teachers union contract a close look, since the bulk of school spending is absorbed by these employees. … more

August in Michigan Is Teacher Freedom Month

The Class Size Myth

New State Data Shows Michigan Public Schools Spent Record Amount Per-Student

New State Data Show Michigan Public Schools Spent Record Amount Per-Student

Michigan public schools received and spent more money per pupil in 2008-2009 than in any previous year for which figures are available, according to new data from the Michigan Department of Education. … more

The Sales Tax and Lottery Myth

Wayne-Westland Teacher Contract: Summary and Analysis

Walled Lake Teacher Contract Analysis

Wayne-Westland Teacher Contract Summary

About 75 percent of the Wayne-Westland Community School's $111 million budget goes towards paying employees covered by its current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups. … more

The Unequal Funding Myth

Are Public Schools Underfunded? No

Ann Arbor Teachers Union Keeps District Out of Balance

The union concedes to help close one-fifth of budget gap, while pay for its members consumes three-quarters of district spending. … more

Districts Save With Health Savings Accounts

Districts Save With Health Savings Accounts

More school districts are realizing the savings that can be had from consumer-driven, high-deductible health insurance plans. … more

The Unstable Funding Myth

MEA Rally: Massive Failure or Just Waste of Time and Money?

MEA said they'd bring 10,000 people to Lansing and wound up with only 3,500. … more

The Unstable Funding Myth

Traverse City Teacher Contract: Summary and Analysis

Traverse City Teacher Contract Summary

In 2009, the vast majority of teachers in the Traverse City Area Public Schools received a base salary between $45,355 and $67,973, with an average of $56,742. The district also pays $14,631 annually for employee health insurance plans, toward which teachers contribute $87.50 per month, or 7 percent. This contrasts with the statewide average cost (private and public sector) for an employer-provided family plan of $11,300, with employees picking up 22 percent of that amount.
These are among the highlights of the current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups, obtained from the district by professional negotiators employed by the Michigan Education Association. … more

The Kalamazoo Promise vs. School Choice

Is "The Kalamazoo Promise" program inherently better than school choice? … more

Analysis: Another LIFO Victim

Another LIFO Victim

LIFO stands for "last in, first out" and describes how nearly all Michigan school districts choose which teachers to lay off when downsizing becomes a necessity. … more

How Michigan’s School Foundation Allowance Works

Analysis: The Underfunded Schools Myth

How Public School Funding Works

The Underfunded Myth

Michigan Department of Education Miscalculates Average Teacher Salary

The Michigan Department of Education improperly calculated the average public school teacher salary in the state for the last six years, reporting figures significantly lower than what is correct. Corrected figures for the past two years were recently released. … more

Paying Teachers Not to Teach

At a recent rally where school employees called for an increase in state taxes, a representative of the Warren Education Association claimed that school revenues were in such disrepair that some students were having to go without desks. A spokesperson from Warren Consolidated schools denied this claim, but even if it were true, a few very minor policy changes well short of tax hikes would be all that is necessary pay for many new desks. … more

Paying Teachers Not to Teach

At a recent rally where school employees called for an increase in state taxes, a representative of the Warren Education Association claimed that school revenues were in such disrepair that some students were having to go without desks. A spokesperson from Warren Consolidated schools denied this claim, but even if it were true, a few very minor policy changes well short of tax hikes would be all that is necessary pay for many new desks. … more

Michigan Department of Education Miscalculates Average Teacher Salary

The Michigan Department of Education improperly calculated the average public school teacher salary in the state for the last six years, reporting figures significantly lower than what is correct. Corrected figures for the past two years were recently released. … more

Port Huron Teacher Contract: Summary and Analysis

In the Port Huron Area School District, about 70 percent of the $106 million operating budget goes towards paying employees covered by current collective bargaining agreements for teachers and a few other employee groups. Yet few people know what is in these or other school labor contracts. … more

Port Huron Teacher Contract Summary

In the Port Huron Area School District, about 70 percent of the $106 million operating budget goes towards paying employees covered by current collective bargaining agreements for teachers and a few other employee groups. Yet few people know what is in these or other school labor contracts. … more

The School Employee Concession Myth

The School Employee Concession Myth

Teachers Union Isn't Pulling Its Own Weight When Making Concessions

Although the Utica Education Association consumes 70 percent of the district's budget, it just agreed to concessions worth only 18 percent of what's needed to keep the district in the black. … more

The Great Early Education Gamble

Another study castes doubts on what many are hoping will save Michigan's economy: schooling for 4-year-olds. … more

Utica Teacher Contract: Summary and Analysis

Average Teacher Salaries Continue to Rise

A new report from the Michigan Department of Education shows that average teacher salaries in Michigan grew by 3 percent to $58,721 in 2009. However, the average salary for unionized teachers in conventional school districts (93 percent of all teachers) was $62,556. … more

Utica Teacher Contract Summary

For most Michigan schools, 70 percent of their operating expenses go to paying employees covered under a teacher union contract. This is a summary and analysis of the current teacher contract for Utica Community Schools, the second largest district in the state.  … more

Average Teacher Salaries Continue to Rise

A new report from the Michigan Department of Education shows that average teacher salaries in Michigan grew by 3 percent to $58,721 in 2009. However, the average salary for unionized teachers in conventional school districts (93 percent of all teachers) was $62,556. … more

Leaders of the PAC

What happens when school employee groups are pitted against each other? Usually, the teachers are the champs. … more

Saline Teacher Contract: Summary and Analysis

Breaking News: House Vote Would Force Charter Schools Into Underfunded Pension System

Moments ago, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that would force every charter school in the state to enroll its teachers in the underfunded and hugely expensive "defined benefits" pension system to which conventional public school employees belong. This year, conventional school districts are required to pay an amount equal to 16.94 percent of their payroll into this system, which promises its members lifetime monthly pension payments and health insurance upon their retirement. To deal with the increased cost pressures, next year, school contributions are expected to rise to 19 percent of payroll. … more

Saline Teacher Contract Summary

Nearly every aspect of a teacher's job falls under the provisions of a union contract. The following is an analysis of the current contract in Saline Area Schools. … more

Breaking News: House Vote Would Force Charter Schools Into Underfunded Pension System

Moments ago, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that would force every charter school in the state to enroll its teachers in the underfunded and hugely expensive "defined benefits" pension system to which conventional public school employees belong. This year, conventional school districts are required to pay an amount equal to 16.94 percent of their payroll into this system, which promises its members lifetime monthly pension payments and health insurance upon their retirement. To deal with the increased cost pressures, next year, school contributions are expected to rise to 19 percent of payroll. … more

More Money for MESSA

Things are about to get much tougher for the 440 or so Michigan school districts that buy employee health insurance from the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA recently reported that it's predicting a statewide average increase of 13 percent in the price of its premiums. … more

Analysis: Can We Build Better Teachers?

Can We Build Better Teachers?

Michigan law requires that all teachers participate in professional development programs even though recent studies show that professional development does nothing to help teachers improve student achievement. Instead of fruitlessly trying to transform ineffective teachers, schools should focus on hiring and retaining high-performing ones. … more

Farmington Public Schools' Union Contract

Farmington Teacher Contract Summary

Nearly every aspect of a teacher's job falls under the rules of a union contract. The following takes an in-depth look at the Farmington Public Schools teacher contract. … more

Online Learning Can Improve Michigan Public Education

Schooling the MEA in Basic Economics

East Lansing Schools Union Contract

Nearly every aspect of a teacher's job falls under the rules of a union contract. The following is an analysis of the current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups in the East Lansing School District… more

East Lansing Teacher Contract Summary

Nearly every aspect of a teacher's job falls under the rules of a union contract. The following is an analysis of the current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups in the East Lansing School District… more

Proposal Would Punish Prudent School Districts

House Bill 5963, sponsored by Rep. Tim Melton (D-Pontiac) would force schools to spend down their general fund balances to 15 percent of their current operating expenditures. This attempt to micromanage their budgets isn't likely to help schools become more fiscally stable or deal with dwindling enrollment and the resulting declines in revenue. … more

Teacher Contracts: An Analysis

Nearly every aspect of a teacher’s job falls under the rules of a union contract. The following is a synopsis of the agreement for Fruitport Community Schools. … more

Fruitport Teacher Contract Summary

Nearly every aspect of a teacher’s job falls under the rules of a union contract. The following is a synopsis of the agreement for Fruitport Community Schools. … more