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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.

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.

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.