[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.

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