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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.

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.

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.

Saving Retirement in Michigan

Responsible Alternatives to Social Security

Social Security is going bankrupt, threatening the financial security of Michigan citizens. Retiring Baby Boomers are estimated to double the number of retirees in America by 2015, when Social Security will no longer collect enough in taxes to pay the benefits promised to recipients.

Privatizing Social Security-allowing individuals to privately invest their own retirement savings-can avert the financial crisis. Countries including Chile and Great Britain have privatized all or part of their state pension programs, yielding retiree benefits much higher than the government systems, including Social Security's paltry 2.2 percent annual rate of return.

This study recommends that the Michigan Legislature call on Congress to either privatize Social Security or allow Michigan to design for its citizens a sounder and more beneficial retirement plan.

"Urban Sprawl" and the Michigan Landscape: A Market-Oriented Approach

Government officials and environmental activists use "stopping urban sprawl" as a mantra to support greater government control over private land use decisions in Michigan through central planning aimed at farmland preservation and urban revitalization. This study critically examines suburbanization and land use in Michigan to determine that the state's economy and farmland and citizens' quality of life are not threatened by economic growth and development, or what activists have dubbed "sprawl." The study argues that restrictions on suburban growth do not address the causes of why people move out of inner cities any more than the Berlin Wall addressed the problems of East Germany's repressive socialist economy. The study concludes by recommending a market-based approach to land use policy and identifying "urban sprawl" as the natural evolution of free people pursuing peaceful ends and their shot at the American Dream.

Paycheck Protection in Michigan

The U. S. Supreme Court's 1988 landmark decision Communication Workers v. Beck established the rights of employees working under union contracts to pay only those union dues or fees necessary to cover the costs of a union's employee representation duties. However, the majority of Michigan's nearly one million union workers are unaware of their rights under the Beck decision for the simple reason that their unions neglect to inform them. This report shows how "paycheck protection" legislation would help safeguard worker Beck rights by requiring unions to obtain up-front, written approval from individual workers each year before they could spend the dues money on political or other non-workplace-related activities. The report recommends that Michigan policy makers adopt a paycheck protection proposal to help union workers enjoy their freedoms of speech and association as they refrain from involuntarily contributing money to union causes with which they disagree.

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.

Reforming Property Forfeiture Laws to Protect Citizens’ Rights

The Framers of the United States Constitution understood that freedom depends upon the vigorous protection of private property rights and that this protection was therefore the most sacred obligation of government. However, despite Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees, recent years have witnessed a massive expansion of a legal practice known as "asset forfeiture," which allows government to violate the very property rights it is charged with protecting. Hundreds of asset forfeiture laws-many of them intended to stop illegal drug trafficking-give state and federal law enforcement agents the power to seize property even without proof of the owners' guilt in a criminal trial because, in many cases, the government considers the property itself to be the criminal. This study recommends nine reforms that will help guarantee that Michigan citizens enjoy the benefits of private property rights, limited government, and individual liberty, and remain protected from unjustified and arbitrary seizure of their personal possessions.

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

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

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

Energizing Michigan's Electricity Market

Michigan is about to allow customer choice in the electric power market and, by doing so, end nearly a century of monopoly protection and guaranteed profits for electric utilities. How the state makes this free market transition will impact Michigan's competitiveness and cost of living. The report reviews key decisions before the legislature; analyzes the Public Service Commission proposals; shows the technical, environmental, and economic impact of deregulation; compares Michigan to other states; and recommends ten specific actions to ensure fair, timely, and comprehensive customer choice. The effects of so-called stranded cost payments to utilities are assessed in detail. A four-page glossary of technical terms is included. 33 pages.

Compulsory Union Dues in Michigan

Nearly one million Michigan workers are forced to financially support a union in order to keep their jobs. Although federal law permits unions and employers to force workers to pay for union representation in the workplace, the law does not extend to forcing workers to pay unions for representation in the political arena. Over three-fourths of union workers are not aware that they do not have to fund their unions' political, social, and ideological agendas. This report documents the developing law surrounding compulsory union dues in Michigan, shows workers how to exercise their rights to a dues refund, presents positive union strategies for making workers aware of their rights, and calls for executive action by the governor. 28 pp.

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.

Reforming the Law of Takings in Michigan

If the state of Michigan takes from a land owner some, but not all, of the use or value of his land, the owner is not entitled to any compensation. This forces a few land owners to bear the entire cost of these takings that are intended to benefit the public as a whole. Many states have initiated reforms that would permit land owners to be more fairly compensated. This study outlines the practice of takings jurisprudence in Michigan, reviews the legislative responses in Michigan and other states, and makes specific recommendations for reform in Michigan. 40 pages.

Advancing Civil Society: A State Budget to Strengthen Michigan Culture

An Analysis of Fiscal Year 1995-96 Appropriations and Recommendations for Change

At its core, the budget of the state of Michigan is not about money-it is about people and the way they organize their society. This line-by-line analysis of Michigan's 1995-96 state budget reflects a principled vision for Michigan culture by asking this question about each budget item: Should this program or activity be done by the authority of the state and financed by taxes, or should it be done by its individual citizens acting in voluntary cooperation and private contract with one another? The study recommends over $2 billion in spending reductions (over 7 percent of the state budget) achieved by eliminating unnecessary and counterproductive programs, rolling back unjustified program growth, and contracting out for services that can be handled more efficiently by the private sector. This landmark analysis will help citizens, candidates, and officials of any state craft budgets that promote the strengthening of private institutions and civil society. 97 pages.

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.

Stress Claims in Michigan: Worker's Compensation Entitlement for Mental Disability

The worker's compensation system was developed as a way for workers who suffer on-the-job physical injuries to be compensated fairly and quickly for medical expenses and loss of income. In recent years, however, it has expanded into a new area fraught with vagueness: mental stress. Though the focus of this report is on Michigan, which has been in the forefront among states in mental stress claims, its searching analysis of the inherent difficulty in evaluating these claims will be useful for anyone interested in this growing area of workplace abuse. 36 pages.

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.

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.