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Michigan School Privatization Survey 2016

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.

This is the 14th edition of the Mackinac Center's annual school privatization survey. We ask every school district in the state if they outsource one of the three main noninstructional services — custodial, transportation and food services. The results from this year's survey show that 70 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

Worker's Choice

Freeing unions and workers from forced representation

Where there’s a unionized workplace, there’s forced representation. That’s true regardless of whether a state is right-to-work or not. Even if a union can’t get a worker fired for not paying dues, the worker is still bound by union representation.

A Survey of Michigan's Private Education Sector

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According to data collected by the state, Michigan has 601 private schools that enroll about 113,000 students — about 7 percent of all students in the state. All but 14 of Michigan’s 84 counties have at least one private school operating within their boundaries. Despite the fact that private schools in Michigan are widespread, there is very little publicly available information about them. In response to this need, the Mackinac Center, with the help of the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools, conducted a survey of private school administrators from all across the state.

School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What's the Relationship?

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Does Michigan devote enough money to primary and secondary education? Do school districts receive enough revenue to ensure the vast majority of enrolled students graduate college or career ready? How much does it cost to provide a quality educational experience? These are the types of questions for which the Michigan Legislature recently paid nearly $400,000 to obtain some answers.

These answers would clearly be helpful to policymakers who determine how many tax dollars to allocate to schools. But these concerns about the adequate level of school funding are based in part on the common assumption that spending more on K-12 schools will generate better academic outcomes. A more fundamental question that policymakers might want to answer before determining the appropriate level of funding for schools is: What is the relationship between school spending and student achievement in Michigan?

That is the question this paper attempts to answer.

To read a response to a critique of this study, click here.

Civil Forfeiture in Michigan: A Review and Recommendations for Reforms

Forfeiture is a practice by which law enforcement transfers assets – cash, vehicles, homes, etc. – from private citizens to the government. Criminal forfeiture occurs after the conviction of a person and is widely-accepted as legitimate.

The problem is with civil forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture occurs outside of the criminal justice system and does not require a conviction of a crime. This has led to instances of abuse in Michigan, which has among the lowest-rated forfeiture laws in the United States. The Mackinac Center believes property should only be transferred from citizens to the government after a criminal conviction is secured.

This study explains how civil forfeiture works, how it differs from criminal forfeiture and what reforms state policymakers should consider in order to protect the rights of Michigan residents.

Bringing Financial Transparency to Michigan's Public Sector Unions

Nathan Mehrens, a labor expert who helped implement financial reporting requirements for private sector unions while serving at the U.S. Department of Labor, explains how Michigan should reform its union transparency laws. Most public sector unions do not have to publicly disclose meaningful financial information, and Mehrens argues that Michigan lawmakers should adopt financial reporting requirements similar to those used by the federal government.

Worker's Choice: Freeing Unions and Workers from Forced Representation

Worker’s Choice provides a method to fix the "free/forced rider" issue that exists in right-to-work states. Without requiring a complete overhaul of collective bargaining laws, this policy can free unions from having to provide services to employees who do not support them, and allow individual employees to represent themselves and negotiate independently with their employers.

Unionization for the 21st Century: Solutions for the Ailing Labor Movement

For years union membership has been in decline. In 2012 union membership hit the lowest percentage of the American workforce since 1916. The union business model, based largely on industrial organizing efforts from the 1930s, does not appear to carry over well for today’s educated and transient workforce. This study outlines several ideas that unions could embrace that would grow their membership and improve the services workers receive.

Overcriminalizing the Wolverine State: A Primer and Possible Reforms for Michigan

(Editor’s note: This paper was co-authored with James R. Copland and Isaac Gorodetski and jointly published with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research).

At present, Michigan’s vast, disorganized criminal law inherently places the Wolverine State’s residents at risk of unintentionally violating a growing array of regulatory crimes that are difficult to discover and understand. The complexity of administrating such a criminal code threatens to divert scarce resources away from the enforcement of serious violent and property crimes. This study analyzes the size and scope of Michigan’s criminal law and makes policy recommendations aimed at curbing this “overcriminalization.”

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2014

The growth of school support service privatization has slowed. The 2014 survey shows that the percentage of school districts that contract out for food, custodial or transportation services increased just 0.4 percentage points, the smallest growth recorded since the survey began. Each service, however, increased and satisfaction with contracting remains high.

Making Michigan Right-to-Work: Implementation Problems in Public Schools

This paper examines how public school districts responded to Michigan's 2012 “right-to-work” law. It describes the key findings from reviews of more than 500 teacher collective bargaining agreements. It also raises several questions about the legality of some union contracts with regard to this new law.

Approximately 75 percent of districts with contracts subject to the right-to-work law removed language that would require employees to financially support a union as a condition of employment. Both legal and policy questions are raised by the remaining 25 percent of districts, which kept mandatory dues language in one way or another, despite having a contract that took effect or was modified after the law's effective date.

The study describes five issues with these contracts. Twenty-three contracts made no apparent changes and kept mandatory dues language. Eight districts created a separate agreement to require mandatory dues payment. Fifteen contracts were ratified before they would be subject to the right-to-work law, but then didn’t take effect until much later. Five contracts made only the mandatory dues language immediately effective, while delaying the rest of the contract. Finally, at least six districts have modified parts of their contract without making the rest of it compliant with the right-to-work law.

Proposal 1 of 2014: Summary and Assessment

Download the full study here.

On Aug. 5 Michigan voters will be asked to approve or reject Proposal 1, which would modify the state’s personal property tax. The legislation that would go into effect if Proposal 1 were approved by voters creates three new exemptions for certain businesses that are currently subject to the personal property tax; it does not eliminate the personal property tax. Commercial and industrial businesses with less than $80,000 of personal property will be exempt, and, eventually, all manufacturing personal property will be exempt. These exemptions amount to an estimated $600 million tax cut when fully implemented.

The package of bills includes a mechanism for reimbursing local government units for the revenue lost from these new exemptions. The state would set aside a portion of the statewide Use tax revenue, and use this revenue to reimburse local governments. It is estimated that local governments will be reimbursed for the entirety of the revenue lost due to the personal property tax cuts.

The state would also levy a new, but relatively small, tax on manufacturing personal property that qualifies for one of the exemptions described above, except the small parcel exemption. The state estimates this to raise $117.5 million, making the overall net tax cut of the legislation package worth about $500 million.

Roadblocks to Reform?: A Review of Union Contracts in Michigan Schools

This study focuses on Public Act 103 of 2011, which made teacher evaluation, layoff policies and teacher placement prohibited subjects of bargaining, among other things. After surveying 200 Michigan school district collective bargaining agreements, this study finds that as many as 60 percent of districts could have collective bargaining agreements in place that contain language prohibited by PA 103.

Some districts negotiated with their unions to add language stating that if circumstances changed, pages of prohibited language would take immediate effect. Others simply changed the word “teacher” in order to keep the prohibited language but have it apply to other staff members. Finally, some districts appear to have kept prohibited language without explanation.

This study includes further examples and lists of districts that kept the prohibited language in their contracts. As a solution, penalties could be added to the collective bargaining reform laws in order to encourage district compliance.