Studies

S2014-01

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2013

Michigan’s school districts have saved money by turning to the private-sector to provide support services. This 2013 survey shows that 65.5 percent of districts now contract out food, custodial or transportation services to private-sector vendors. This is an increase from 31.0 percent in 2001. The survey covers the three services, satisfaction and insourcing among Michigan’s public school districts and has been performed in 2001, 2003, and annually since 2005. … more
S2013-11

The Public School Market in Michigan: An Analysis of Schools of Choice

This study examines the use of Schools of Choice throughout Michigan over the last decade. Nearly 100,000 Michigan students use Schools of Choice to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. Participation has grown steadily, with enrollment growing by 144 percent over the past 10 years.
This study finds that students enter districts that have higher graduation rates and higher test scores. On average, Schools of Choice students chose districts with higher pupil-teacher ratios, lower expenditures per pupil and higher average teacher salaries.
 … more
S2013-12

A New Turnaround Model: Michigan's Highland Park Goes Charter

This brief examines the series of events that led to the Highland Park school district being converted to a system of charter public schools in 2012. Used as a strategy to help the district eliminate its large fiscal debt while still providing resident students with a local public school option, Highland Park's charter conversion is one of the first of its kind in the state and even the nation.
During the first year of charter school operation, students demonstrated significant learning gains, with some grades posting academic growth far above the average Michigan student. … more
Michigan vs. Florida

Michigan vs. Florida

Student achievement, education policies and proposals for reform

This study is an examination of Florida and Michigan's performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress's (NAEP) standardized test, often referred to as "the nation's report card." Immediately prior to and during Florida's immense improvement on these scores from the past 15 years, the state made substantial changes to its public education system. Some of these policies have been rigorously studied and have shown a positive impact on Florida students that Michigan should emulate to improve its static performance. … more
Michigan Privatization Survey Cover 2011

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2011

Majority of Michigan school districts currently contract food, custodial or transportation services
Despite increased spending in Michigan public schools, districts regularly face tough choices allocating their resources. This study surveys the privatization of the three major noninstructional services: food, custodial and transportation services. The findings are that over half of public schools have privatized at least one of these services; what is more, about 93 percent report satisfaction with the private-sector services they receive, which spells progress towards improving services while spending less. … more
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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
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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
S2010-10

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
S2010-06

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2010

Privatization of support services has been a method that Michigan school districts have used for several years to lower costs. More than ever before, Michigan school districts are privatizing the three main support services they offer — food, custodial and transportation. Our annual survey finds that 48.8 percent of Michigan school districts are contracting out for these services. This is an 8 percent increase over 2009.

The largest impetus for contracting is cost savings. The survey found that first-year contracts alone are expected to save districts $16.7 million cumulatively. … more
S2009-10

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2009

With Michigan’s public school districts facing a decline in per-pupil funding, more districts are contracting out for at least one of the three major school support services — food, custodial and transportation — than ever before. This year’s survey of school districts found that 44.6 percent of all Michigan school districts contract out for at least one of these services, a 5.6 percent increase over 2008. This year, new contracts alone are expected to save $6.9 million. … more
Teacher Quality Primer

A Teacher Quality Primer

For Michigan School Officials, State Policymakers, Media and Residents

While it is true that Michigan students learn a variety of skills in their time at school, perhaps the most important charge of public schools, beyond providing a safe and healthy environment, is to ensure that students are learning "the three R’s." Unfortunately, the achievement levels of Michigan public school students raise doubts about the quality of public education in the state. This volume has been written to assist local and state policymakers who want to initiate and support teacher quality reforms to improve Michigan's primary and secondary schools. … more
S2007-13 cover

The Edmonton Public Schools Story

Internationally Renowned Superintendent Angus McBeath Chronicles His District’s Successes and Failures

Faced with budget battles, declining enrollments and tense contract negotiations, Michigan school leaders could seize upon the advice of a superintendent and educator who has faced the very same issues for 30 years and who now consults with school districts. … more
Choice Snapshot

School Choice Snapshot: A 2006 Survey of U.S. Policy and Advocacy Organizations

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy worked on this survey project from November 2005 through September 2006. We provided assistance to the survey researcher, Adam B. Schaeffer, who was then a National Research Initiative Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., by collaborating on the survey instrument, offering relevant and limited information from our database, handling technical details of inviting and following up with participants, and editing and publishing this document. … more
Proposal 5

An Analysis of Proposal 5: The ‘K-16’ Michigan Ballot Measure

On Nov. 7, 2006, Michigan voters will be asked to consider a proposed new law that would, if passed, require annual state spending to increase at no less than the inflation rate for the following state budget areas: public school districts and charter schools; certain specific budget items in state spending on public school districts and charter schools; and state universities and community colleges. The proposal also contains new requirements for state payments to districts with declining enrollment and places liability for school employee pension cost increases on state government, rather than school districts. The proposed new law will appear as “Proposal 5”on the ballot, and its mandates would take effect in the 2006-2007 school year. … more
Study Cover

Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan’s State Budget — 2nd Edition

An Analysis of Fiscal-Year 2003-04 Appropriations and Recommendations for 2004-05. … more
shaking hands

Forging Consensus

Can the School Choice Community Come Together on an Explicit Goal and a Plan for Achieving It? … more

Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan's State Budget

An Analysis of Fiscal-Year 2002-03 Appropriations and Recommendations for 2003-04

If Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Legislature need specifics on how to close Michigan’s looming $1.7 billion budget deficit, they need look no further than the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s new report on balancing the state budget, released today.

More than 200 specific recommendations from Mackinac Center analysts total more than $2 billion in cost savings and revenue enhancements. All budget reductions, including those involving federal funds, total $3.7 billion. 157 pages. … more
school building

The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts

An Assessment of What Michigan Public School Districts Can Do to Save Money Without Laying Off Teachers or Other Essential Staff … more
Mandate II cover

Keeping Michigan on Track:

A Blueprint for a Freer, More Prosperous State

New legislative opportunities will come with the fall elections for the Michigan House, Senate, and governorship. Read the Mackinac Center's policy recommendations for the next Legislature and governor below. … more
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The Case for Choice in Schooling:

Restoring Parental Control of Education

After 40 years of struggle, school choice is now at the center of the debate over school reform in America, and it is of primary importance that the public understand the facts-and avoid the myths-surrounding this issue. This three-part primer is designed to educate and inform citizens about all aspects of school choice and equip them to participate in the debate as fully informed members of their communities. The report contains a historical overview of tax-funded schooling, demonstrates the failure of many popular reforms of the past and present, explains the various types of school choice, identifies the barriers to education reform, dispels myths surrounding school choice, and outlines strategic plans parents and other concerned citizens can follow to advance the cause of greater school choice. … more

The Cost of Remedial Education

More than a third of Michigan students leave high school without possessing basic academic skills including reading, writing, and arithmetic. This forces employers and post-secondary schools to take up the slack. This study conservatively estimates that Michigan businesses and institutions of higher education spend over $600 million annually to teach employees and students skills they should have learned in high school. The comparable national figure is $16.6 billion, but the human costs of K-12 educational failure are incalculable, according to experts' essays included in the study's appendices. … more
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The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts

Case studies of how school districts in Michigan's largest county are responding to competition from charter schools and public "schools-of-choice" … more
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School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education

  School choice--the right, freedom, and ability of parents to choose for their children the safest and best schools--has moved front and center in the debate over how to improve education in Michigan. This three-part primer equips parents, educators, and policy makers with the facts they need to understand and advance market-based reforms that will help all Michigan schools perform at higher levels of quality and efficiency.
  The primer examines the history of government-funded and operated schooling, explains why nonmarket-oriented school reform efforts ultimately fail, and describes various school choice proposals including charter schools, inter-district choice, vouchers, tax credits, and universal tuition tax credits. Helpful appendices explain ways for grass-roots citizens to help advance school choice. … more

The Impact of School Choice on School Employee Labor Unions

  As school choice heads for the 2000 ballot in Michigan, it is important for citizens to understand how proposals including K-12 vouchers and tuition tax credits will affect the school employee unions that exert such a powerful influence on the state’s public school system.
  This study examines union membership rates among Michigan’s public, charter, and private school teachers and found that while teachers in every public school district are represented by-and pay dues to-a union, only 5 out of 139 charter and 2 out of over one thousand private schools employ unionized workforces.
  The study concludes that school employee unions-including the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Federation of Teachers-have powerful political and financial incentives to spend millions of dollars to prevent more parents from being able to choose non-unionized charter or private schools for their children. … more

How Reliable Are Michigan High School Economics Textbooks?

  A strong knowledge of sound economic principles is not only important in the twenty-first century global marketplace, it is essential for the maintenance of a free society. Are Michigan high school students being taught what they need to know in order to succeed and prosper?
  This review of 16 of the most commonly used economics textbooks in Michigan high schools uses 12 criteria-including issues of trade, taxation, and the role of government-to evaluate which texts are and are not effective at presenting students with a balanced and accurate perspective on the modern market economy. Each text is graded, from A to F, on its ability to clearly instruct students in the "economic way of thinking."
  An abridged 27-page written copy of the report may be ordered normally, or the full reviews of each textbook may be downloaded at no charge via www.mackinac.org… more

Unused Capacity in Privately Funded Michigan Schools

Many Michigan education reformers are exploring proposals to use private schools to help fix public school problems, including student overcrowding and a lack of incentives for improving student performance. The proposals, whether they involve public-to-private student transfers or expanded parental choice among all schools, depend on private schools' willingness and ability to accommodate new students. This study, which surveyed 342 of Michigan's 1,058 private schools, confirms that private schools have the classroom capacity and desire to accept a significantly larger role in providing more of the state's children with quality education. 10 pages. … more

Keeping Michigan on Track

A Blueprint for Governor Engler and the 90th Legislature

  The close of the twentieth century finds Michigan in a position that seemed impossible barely a decade ago: record low unemployment, a thriving economy, growing educational opportunities, and a sense of accomplishment and high spirits. But much can be done to make Michigan an even better place to live and work.
  This report's five sections offer the Governor and the Legislature 41 specific recommendations that will strengthen property rights protection, reform labor law to protect worker rights, improve education for Michigan children, spur economic growth and development, and enhance the state's transportation infrastructure. … more

Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table

Michigan parents, citizens, and policy makers have begun an earnest discussion over the issues that affect the quality of children's education, but one issue that is rarely considered in discussions about education reform is public school union collective bargaining. This Mackinac Center for Public Policy study is the first ever to systematically analyze the hundreds of collective bargaining agreements for every school district in a state. It examines collective bargaining's impact on Michigan public education and makes recommendations that school boards should incorporate into their union contracts to improve their ability to direct maximum resources to the classroom and deliver quality education to students. The study also explains the historical and legal framework of public employee collective bargaining in Michigan, analyzes seven important court rulings that affect public collective bargaining issues, and advises districts on which subjects to negotiate or not negotiate into their labor contracts. Three appendices compare costs and benefits of various health care plans and present contract and financial data from the survey of Michigan's 583 school districts. … more

The Need for Debt Policy in Michigan Public Schools

Public school construction is booming across Michigan, but due to citizens' negative perceptions, many districts are finding it harder and harder to gain voter approval for bond proposals to fund needed projects. This analysis of Michigan public school bonding concludes that development of formal debt policies can help schools earn essential voter trust by managing bond monies in the most efficient and effective manner. The report recommends fifteen elements for a sound debt policy that school districts should adopt to avoid common pitfalls and problems in bonding, including excessive borrowing, improper accounting, and conflict of interest in debt issuance. 17 pages … more
Universal Tuition Tax Credit cover

The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education

This pathbreaking approach to expanding parental choice in education embodies a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution and establish a Universal Tuition Tax Credit (UTTC). The tax credit would offset a portion of private or public school tuition and would be claimed against state tax liabilities. In addition to improving education, the UTTC would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Unlike other tax credit plans, the UTTC would help needy families with low state tax liabilities by encouraging the creation of corporate scholarships to offset tuition costs not covered by the UTTC. The per-student credit could be claimed against the Michigan tax liability of any person or corporation. Unlike vouchers, the UTTC would not allow state funds to support religious schools, would not drain funds from the public schools, and would not spawn new entitlements or overregulation of private schools. The study includes detailed fiscal models, a discussion of school choice, a history of Michigan's constitutional impediments to education reform, and proposed language for a constitutional amendment. 76 pages … more
Do Private Schools Serve cover

Do Private Schools Serve Difficult-to-Educate Students?

Private K-12 schools are sometimes criticized for accepting only those students most likely to succeed academically, and for leaving the most difficult-to-educate children to the public school system. Is this true? The diversity of private schools includes those that serve exclusively at-risk, incarcerated, or disabled children. The report describes private schools that educate each of these populations, reviews how public schools are contracting with private schools to serve difficult-to-educate students, examines policy implications including cost and school choice, and presents six case studies of Michigan private schools that serve exclusively students with special needs. 71 page … more
Declining Standards

Declining Standards at Michigan Universities

Reflecting a national problem, Michigan public universities are producing graduates who are unprepared for K-12 teaching careers and the business world. The demise of the traditional core curriculum, indoctrination in the classroom, and questionable teaching methods that emphasize emotion and subjectivity over rigor and critical thinking are to blame. The study documents extensive evidence cited by employers that college graduates lack crucial communications and thinking skills, and it finds a link between poor training of aspiring teachers and declining K-12 student performance. Analysis of over 300 undergraduate course syllabi reveal the dominance of trendy, politicized course content. 88 pages. … more

Are Michigan's History Textbooks Reliable?

When history texts are poorly written, students are merely bored. But when they are distorted and biased, students may act on false ideas and live out a lie. How reliable are Michigan's history texts at presenting the past in ways which are well organized, accurate, clear, and free of bias? In this study, four Michigan history textbooks are analyzed and reviewed against these criteria. The reliability of these texts is especially important since Michigan history is a required subject for Michigan fourth graders, and it is studied by many junior high and high schoolers too. Parents, teachers, and school officials will find this study a valuable tool for making the best choices for their students. 28 pages. … more

Outcome-Based Education: Miracle Cure or Plague?

This report explains why there is so much conflict over outcome-based education (OBE). When states began to institute OBE programs, they turned the crucial task of defining outcomes over to the very education establishment threatened by the process. Having adopted in principle the laudable focus on education results, the educrats then went on to propose a list of outcomes that emphasizes not academic achievement but rather, attitudes and behavior that often reflect quasi-political or ideologically correct positions. 24 pages. … more

Teacher, Inc.: A Private Option for Educators

This study profiles the experiences of a number of educators in private practice, and discusses the benefits that teachers, students, and schools may realize by contracting for instruction. Also included are the results from two national surveys about the legal authority of school boards to contract for instruction, and a chart to help administrators identify the fully allocated costs of in-house and contract service. 23 pages. … more

Doing More With Less: Competitive Contracting for School Support Services

Competitive contracting can provide schools with expertise, flexibility, and cost efficiencies not always available with in-house service provision. If they are properly designed and monitored, contracts between schools and private providers can help school administrators do more with less. Includes step-by-step guidelines for the "make or buy" decision, tells how to avoid pitfalls, and suggests measures for contractor evaluation. 26 pages. … more

Making Schools Work: Contracting Options for Better Management

Can America's public schools be improved? Unquestionably. Without additional spending, school administrators can take advantage of the expertise of the private sector, introducing innovations that will make a world of difference. This study reveals dozens of examples of private companies now providing management, instructional, and support services to public schools across America. A must-read for anyone interested in changing public education by putting competition and the profit motive to work. 28 pages. … more

Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine

This exhaustive report illuminates the inner workings of the Michigan Education Association's health insurance division, known as MESSA. It documents how tens of millions of the public's education tax dollars are wasted each year on uncompetitive teacher health insurance, and how MESSA is part of a systematic plan to subsidize the MEA's basic operation and political activity. 64 pages. … more

Modern Schools for Michigan: An Outline for Educational Reform

After the Michigan Legislature's vote to end property tax funding for schools, the Mackinac Center issued this outline of a comprehensive education overhaul for Michigan. It suggests policy changes including parental choice, school-based management, and charter schools. Also included is an explanation of the Mackinac Center's innovative Education Credit Account idea. 7 pages. … more

Proposal A: An Analysis of the June 2, 1993, Statewide Ballot Question

In 1993, Michigan voters were asked to consider a plan that would cut property taxes and cap property assessments, raise the sales tax, and establish a $4,800 per-pupil guarantee for the public schools. "Proposal A" was defeated, but not without intensive debate in which this study figured prominently. The report identifies both pros and cons of "A," including independent, in-depth analysis of its likely impact on the state budget, schools, and property owners. Although "A" is now consigned to the history books, this study is a useful tool for understanding school finance, the economics of property taxation, and related constitutional questions. 40 pages. … more
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Michigan's Experiment with Public School Choice: A First Year Assessment

In 1991, the state of Michigan required each of the state's 563 school districts to devise intra district choice plans by April 1992. Wittmann and DeVore examine those plans and conclude that what could have been a bold new beginning for school reform in Michigan turned out to be a largely unproductive extension of the status quo. Genuine choice, competition and accountability in education require far more fundamental changes that will break the monopoly of the public education establishment and create a real marketplace for education. 57 pages. … more

Educational Choice for Michigan

The sad state of public education in Michigan and America is largely due to its organization as a government-protected monopoly. The authors argue that injecting choice, competition and accountability into education would result in dramatic improvement. The report explodes the myths that the problem in education is too little money and that choice would lead to segregation or elitism. One chapter focuses on the remarkable achievements of 107 non-public schools in Detroit. 102 pages. … more

The Michigan Education Trust: A Political Economy Perspective

Touted as cutting-edge public policy, the MET program is found to be a flawed political promise that might have to be bailed out by state taxpayers. Parents who want to save for their children's education have better options in the private marketplace. Subsequent events led Governor Engler to scrap the program. 25 pages. … more

Guarantee of
Quality Scholarship

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is committed to delivering the highest quality and most reliable research on Michigan issues. The Center guarantees that all original factual data are true and correct and that information attributed to other sources is accurately represented.

The Center encourages rigorous critique of its research. If the accuracy of any material fact or reference to an independent source is questioned and brought to the Center’s attention with supporting evidence, the Center will respond in writing. If an error exists, it will be noted in a correction that will accompany all subsequent distribution of the publication. This constitutes the complete and final remedy under this guarantee.