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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.

Hart Enterprises: A Wetland Case Study

This study analyzes a dispute between Hart Enterprises Inc., a medical device manufacturer located north of Grand Rapids, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The department alleges that Hart Enterprises’ property contains a nearly one-acre wetland — an area that lies in the way of the company’s proposed expansion of its parking lot. Because of the DEQ’s ruling, the department expects the company to request a wetland permit — request that might be denied, or that might be granted only with significant conditions attached.

Readers may view a supplemental video of Russ Harding interviewing Alan Taylor of Hart Enterprises.

Proposals to Further Regulate Michigan’s Electricity Market: An Assessment

More than a dozen bills are pending in the Michigan Legislature to expand regulation of the electricity industry and to impose new environmental requirements on energy production and sales. As a group, these legislative proposals assume the necessity of government intervention in the production and distribution of energy. This report details the drawbacks for consumers and the economy of substituting political forces for market forces in electricity service.

Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in Michigan Department of Transportation v. Tomkins

On November 16, 2007, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a brief of amicus curiae with the Michigan Supreme Court in the case of Michigan Department of Transportation v Tomkins. The legal dispute involves the amount of compensation a property owner should receive from state government when the state uses eminent domain to take part of the owner’s property. Specifically, the Michigan Supreme Court asked whether a state law that limits the property owner’s compensation to so-called "special-effect" damages violates the common understanding of the "just compensation" guaranteed in eminent domain cases by the Michigan Constitution.

The Opportunities and Limitations of Biomonitoring

Remarkable advances in analytical chemistry now make it possible to measure minute levels of both natural and synthetic compounds in human tissue and body fluids. This “biomonitoring” allows researchers to determine more precisely than ever the degree to which individuals have been exposed to specific chemicals in the environment, and how exposures change over time. Consequently, federal and state officials increasingly regard biomonitoring as a potential new underpinning of environmental and public health regulations.

Choice Leadership

Popular literature is full of praises for “the common man,” but as these two essays by Ben Stafford illustrate, it’s usually the uncommon men and women who make big things happen. Virginia Walden Ford and Alberta C. Wilson are too modest and focused on others to tell you themselves, but Ben makes it clear that many inner-city children and parents have benefited from the uncommonness of these two women. They are courageous, forward-thinking, can-do citizens. They understand the value of a good education and a strong character, and they have been willing to stand up for those values at no small expense to themselves.

Replacing Michigan’s New Taxes With Budget Reductions: Curing $1.358 Billion in Overspending With 55 Specific Recommendations

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has regularly recommended specific state spending reductions to balance the state’s budget and improve Michigan’s public policy. The following list shows how the state could reduce spending immediately to help balance the state budget if policymakers chose to forgo the projected $1.358 billion in fiscal 2008 revenue from the recent state income tax hike and the new sales tax on certain services.

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.

A Model Right-to-Work Amendment to the Michigan Constitution

This policy brief discusses several foundational legal concepts and sets forth model language for a legally sound right-to-work amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

The Economic Effects of Right-to-Work Laws: 2007

Many states have given workers complete discretion to decline membership in, and financial support of, a union that they individually oppose. Enacting a right-to-work law abolishes agency fees and allows workers themselves to decide if a union deserves their financial support.

The Effects of Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Law

Michigan’s prevailing wage law adds unnecessary costs to construction projects at taxpayers’ expense.

Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization

Privatization is a time-tested management tool used by governments around the world. It can take many forms, but competitive contracting is the most prevalent in the United States whether in municipalities or within the realm of public education. In some regards, Michigan is a national leader in competitive contracting in education; in other areas it is a laggard.

Michigan Higher Education: Facts and Fiction

The observed shrinkage in state appropriations over the first half of the decade was actually a positive development: one that dampened, albeit modestly, the real relative economic decline of the state. Moreover, it calls into question a growth strategy based on expansion of higher education. Indeed, other results included in the econometric estimation suggest that a better growth strategy would be to put the entire Michigan state government on a diet in order to finance a reduction in the overall tax burden. While higher education expenditures are not growth-inducing, the evidence shows that tax reductions are.
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A Collective Bargaining Primer

For Michigan School Board Members

Collective bargaining determines not only the quality and responsiveness of a school district’s teachers and support personnel, but the amount of money remaining to school board members to benefit the children under their care. Thus, while labor negotiations may sometimes feel remote from the process of helping children learn in the classroom, the results of this bargaining often affect a school board’s ability to implement educational policies.

This book is designed to assist school board members in understanding the basic principles and laws of collective bargaining, including some of the major substantive and procedural challenges facing Michigan school boards. In addition, the text is full of quotations from school board members and other education professionals concerning their experiences with collective bargaining and school employee unions. The combination of informational content and personal reflections provides new insights to school board members — and to policymakers, journalists and the general public, as well.