[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, Felix the fox and the Harrisons, a family of red-tailed hawks.

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