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Why Are Mighigan's School Districts Borrowing More?

School districts tempted to dodge the demographic bullet with deluxe buildings and beggar-thy-neighbor policies should think twice. Instead, they should work on what really matters: making their education programs better.

Privatize the University of Michigan (Viewpoint on Public Issues)

Tuition hikes could actually help those students who truly need help — by enabling the school to offer greater outright gift aid and tuition reductions to students from low-income families, as is often the practice at private universities.

Michigan's Poor: How Much Do Numbers Alone Really Tell Us?

Government school monopolies that typically spend more on failure than most private schools spend on success are, in our inner cities especially, veritable poverty mills.

"Proposal A," 10 Years Later

If the 1994 amendment needs amending at all, it needs it in the form of changes that would increase options for parents and produce greater accountability in the ways that education dollars are spent.

Black History Month: Remembering Ralph Bunche

“There is,” he said, “a steady tendency toward polarization of the white and non-white peoples of the world which can lead to ultimate catastrophe for all.”

Alexander Graham Bell Meets George Eastman

The stumbling blocks for further innovation today come not from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists or the marketplace, but from the regulators.

Let Cintas Workers Make Up Their Own Minds

There is no need to pressure Cintas into a neutrality or card-check agreement. When a majority of Cintas workers are convinced they want a union, they will vote to have one.

Why School Districts Can’t Save on Health Care

The MEA and MESSA have set up an obstacle course that prevents public schools from introducing competition for teachers’ health care coverage or putting reasonable limits on the extent of care.

The Granholm Administration: A Review of Year One

The governor’s handling of a $200 million proposal by Plymouth philanthropist Robert Thompson to build 15 charter schools in Detroit was her biggest leadership failure of the year.

Land Preservation Double-Cross

A slim majority of county commissioners has so far refused to put the millage on the ballot, citing significant unanswered questions about its economic effects.

Lack of Transparency Complicates State Budget Challenge

No one — neither the governor, nor the legislative appropriations committees, nor the heads of 20 state departments can know where all the money is going.

Solving the Organ Donation Crisis Through Incentives

As LifeSharers grows, so does the incentive to become a registered donor: preferred access to an ever-larger pool of donated organs.

The Candy Police

When state governments can tell local school districts what to do with regard to a detail as tiny as whether or not students can buy candy on school grounds, it’s time to question whether local control has become a thing of the past.

How to Make Cities “Cool”

Our state and its city governments would do better to focus on their more important functions (schools, roads and public safety, for example), which are often carried out in ways that are anything but cool.

French Fried by the Welfare State

The French can advance civil society only when they get serious about replacing government programs with private initiative, when discussion gets beyond such infantile reasoning as, “If you want to cut government subsidies, you must be in favor of starving the elderly.”

Air Travel: A Hundred Years of Safety

Rather than scrimp on safety measures to gain short-term profits, airlines have found it even more in their interest to ensure the safety of their passengers. No one makes money by putting passengers in danger.

Eliminate Intermediate School Districts

ISDs have become bureaucracies in search of a mission — funded to the tune of $878 million per year in property taxes statewide — with abuses such as those at OISD as the result.

Don’t Blame Deregulation for the Blackout

In the end, the blackout was primarily the result of failures at the transmission level — the level where almost no deregulation has occurred.

Will Michigan Have its First Unionized Parochial High School?

The risk for parochial and other religious schools in Michigan is that their mission could be undermined by having to cater to union demands.

Michigan’s Primary Land-Use Plan a Failure

By every measure, Michigan remains largely a rural state. More than 18 million of Michigan’s 36 million acres is forestland, a share that has actually grown by 2 million acres in the past 20 years.

A Hard Pill for UAW Members to Swallow

Gettelfinger no longer can shield UAW members from competitive pressure. Instead, the UAW must prepare domestic autoworkers for competition.

Repeal Michigan’s Anti-Takeover Law

Anti-takeover laws … often promote the very harms they are supposed to prevent, while imposing great costs and delays on the shareholders and other stakeholders in the corporations.

Reverse Robin Hoods at the University of Michigan

It makes no sense to hold tuition below market rates if it doesn’t achieve the goal of giving a financial leg up to students from poorer families.

The Headlee Amendment: Serving Michigan for 25 Years

We could have what Colorado has: a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which limits spending growth to population growth plus inflation and requires immediate refunds of surplus revenues above that limit.

The Driving-Point Tax: River of Money Could Corrupt Cops, Courts

Minor offenses aren’t overlooked. For example, a motorist unable to find his or her proof of insurance when requested by a police officer — even if they were, in fact, insured — would be assessed $300.

Lessons from the First Airplane

Just nine days after Langley’s failure, the Wrights took turns flying their carefully designed plane for as long as 59 seconds at Kitty Hawk. The craft cost them about $1,000. It cost American taxpayers nothing.

Ford Did Indeed Have A Better Idea

It was clear to Ford that hard work and entrepreneurial risk-taking were the sources of America’s great wealth. “Our help does not come from Washington, but from ourselves,” he wrote. “The government is our servant and never should be anything but a servant.”

Contract Out School Services Before Laying Off Teachers

The fact that poor-performing private companies have been fired — a point the MEA makes very clear — doesn’t prove that privatization doesn’t work. It proves that it does.

Michigan Unions Continue to Lose Support among Workers

Labor unions should abandon the old, outmoded adversarial model of labor relations and instead study ways they can create a better atmosphere; in which labor and management cooperatively solve problems in ways that promote free enterprise.

Beachfront Property Rights Need Protection

Regulators would do far better … to focus attention on the dumping of raw sewage and chemicals that are triggering abnormal plant and algae growth along the lakeshore.

Frivolous, Trendy Teacher Training in Michigan

“The curricula offered by university education departments are heavy on fuzzy ‘self-wareness,’ ‘multicultural,’ and other faddish or politicized material, and light on the hard knowledge of the subjects that teachers must eventually teach.”

County Police Can Patrol Highways for Less

The state could give grants to county sheriff departments equivalent to 77 percent of the amount it currently spends for road patrols, or $128 million. This would allow sheriff’s departments to hire more deputies, and also boost their overhead to support the expanded operations.

Eagle Sightings Signal Improved Michigan Water Quality

The United States and Canada have identified 14 areas within Michigan’s jurisdiction in which water quality does not support a full range of uses, such as drinking or fish consumption.

Feds Endanger Michigan Ferry Business

How refreshing it would be for the federal government to advise the folks at Lake Express LLC, “If you need money to make money, then go get it the honest way: Prove yourself to your investors and to your customers.”

Remembering Prague Spring

The freedoms aborted in 1968 were won in the “Velvet Revolution” of November 1989 when, sapped of any moral legitimacy or resolve, communist rule and Soviet domination evaporated as millions of jubilant Czechs danced in the streets.

A Way to Ease the Pain of Budget Cuts

By what standard of social justice does the state inflate the wages of workers who would most likely be earning above-average wages without government intervention?

Attack on SUVs Unwarranted

Highway safety in general has dramatically improved despite a doubling of licensed drivers and twice as many registrations. The fatality rate hit a historic low of 1.51 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2001, down from 5.5 in 1966.

How to Fix the Organ Donation Crisis

Who can calculate the value of a life saved or the improvement in the quality of life of a dialysis patient or of one who is constantly being admitted to hospitals with congestive heart failure?

Gov. Granholm: Profile in Budget Courage

With government at all levels consuming over 40 percent of national income — more than ever before in our nation’s history — now is the time for bold initiatives to re-shape what state government does and does not do.

Time to Refocus Special Education on Reading Achievement

The fact that the IDEA program comes with federal money [means] school districts have a strong incentive to classify more students as being learning disabled.

A Lesson from Great Britain

For a visitor to give every exhibit the attention it deserved would have required 200 hours in the building.

Historic Preservation for Strip Malls?

Surely, no property owner can be expected to underwrite the private operations of tenants who are running fledgling businesses that may not be able to survive in the marketplace of supply and demand.

Thomas M. Cooley and the Role of Government

Cooley was no advocate for special privileges and perks for the wealthy or politically well-connected, and he condemned the cozy, corrupt relationships that often tied powerful interests and government.

Reviewing the Engler Tenure

No governor in recent Michigan history has done more to lighten the state tax burden than John Engler. Michigan has made more progress in this regard than any other major state.

Union Agreement Threatens West Michigan

Union corporate campaigns and undemocratic, push-button labor deals run roughshod over the rights of employers and employees to fairly and freely make their own decisions about unionization.

Friend of the Court Not Very Friendly (Viewpoint on Public Issues)

...when the same FOC office that failed to collect for Nancy Fox for a decade got wind of the private agency’s success, it mandated that Supportkids route the ex-husband’s payment through the FOC, at which time it would take its “processing fee.”

The Forgotten Robber Barons

To Plunkitt, taking from some and giving to others was a key ingredient in the recipe for reelection. He saw nothing wrong with it, morally or otherwise. Using the political machine to bestow benefits and buy votes came quite naturally to him.

Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools

The dirty little secret of Michigan’s education establishment is that it doesn’t really believe the system (that is, itself) needs to be reformed. That’s why reformers devised the idea of charter schools, and vouchers and tax credits: as ways to impose reform from outside the system.

Where There's Smoke, Is There Asthma?

...we may waste vast sums of money on remote threats, while ignoring the real sources of environmental problems.

An Inspiration for All Time

The great day finally came on July 26, 1833, when Britain became the world’s first major power to unshackle an entire race within its jurisdiction.

Michigan Not a Big Supporter of National Certification Program

Such findings are in keeping with a growing mountain of evidence that teacher certification, whether on the state or national level, doesn’t translate into teacher excellence.

Making Health Care Healthy Again

... if Michigan adopts Vermont-style Medicaid vouchers, and employees take advantage of the new HRA option, Michigan citizens will be able to obtain better insurance at lower cost.

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Proposal 3 would impose a slow, expensive labor negotiation process on the state of Michigan, while uprooting a civil service system that has worked well for both the state and its employees.

Banning the Straight-Party Vote Option

Surely, the right to vote is precious enough to be worth the effort of a thoughtful casting of votes, issue by issue, candidate by candidate.

A Choice Option that Saves Money for Public Schools?

A well-crafted tax credit plan will simply relieve the public schools of the obligation to teach a relatively small percentage of students across the state, while providing the resources to increase the average student expenditure.

Performance Warranties for Roads: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Warrantied projects require less supervision and testing than standard projects, thereby reducing the state’s costs and giving motorists more value for their gas tax dollars.

Public-Private “Land Exchanges” Could Help Resolve Property Rights Disputes

When government is free to put up barriers to development and make property owners bear the cost, its ability to infringe on private property rights is unchecked.

Bypassing Proposal A Through the “Sinking Fund” Gambit

With both gubernatorial candidates favoring the proposal, homeowners could be socked with billions in additional property taxes.

Time to Tame the Tax Beast in Michigan

Even after Gov. John Engler’s efforts to cut taxes, Michigan remains one of the most highly taxed states in the union, resulting in lost jobs and forgone economic opportunities. To get a handle on high taxes and runaway state spending, Michigan needs to follow the lead of 14 other states and adopt a constitutional amendment or law requiring a legislative supermajority before any tax can be raised.

Michigan Workers Are Ready for Right-to-Work

Freedom of association is the legitimate basis upon which the union movement helped establish legal protections for workers in national and state labor laws. But what about the freedom to not join or pay dues to a union in order to get or keep a job? Right-to-work laws—operative in 22 states, but not Michigan—respect this individual choice of workers, and a new study shows states with such laws also enjoy greater economic prosperity.

Amtrak: The Federal Government’s Own Corporate Financial Scandal

With the fraud scandals of Enron, WorldCom, and other corporate giants roiling the stock market, along comes Amtrak to announce a shutdown unless it gets an emergency $200 million cash infusion. But the government should stop subsidizing the failed national rail service, which has wasted billions of tax dollars, and allow the market to punish mismanagement with bankruptcy—exactly as it is doing with the corporate malefactors.

Cigarette Smuggling: Financing Terrorism?

The tax differential is so great between low-cigarette-tax states like North Carolina and high-cigarette-tax states like Michigan, that the U.S. government is beginning to uncover a startling trend: Suspects linked to Middle East terrorist groups have been discovered making "cigarette runs," buying them in North Carolina and selling them at thousands-of-dollars profit in Michigan.

Evaluating New Drugs: Remember the Bigger Picture

Critics of high-priced pharmaceutical products are missing the bigger picture: Over the past several decades, better, more expensive drugs are making far more expensive treatments such as surgery no longer necessary, in many cases. Michigan lawmakers should stop being "penny-wise and pound-foolish," explain to their constituents why drug prices seem so high, and allow the health-care market to come up with the best treatments for the lowest prices.

The Crystal Gazer from Crystal Falls

Emil Hurja, a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was the pioneer of political polling, and was instrumental in the success of the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his political program, "The New Deal." Later, a disillusioned Hurja broke with Roosevelt over policy and lost a run for Congress. Known as "the Crystal Gazer from Crystal Falls," Hurja was a local boy with a national impact.

Law Prevents Electronic Pricing

Michigan is one of the few states where retailers are not allowed to use new electronic price labeling technology because of an obsolete law, the Item Pricing Act, passed in 1976. This law requires paper tags on most merchandise. Allowing stores to use the new technology-as called for in a bill currently before the Legislature-would result in savings that would be passed along to consumers in the form of lower prices.

Farmers Getting Angry over "Checkoff" Programs

"Got Milk?" and other agricultural ad campaigns are paid for by farmers through mandatory "checkoff programs," an offshoot of federal price supports run by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Small farmers are increasingly unhappy because checkoff programs cost them more as a percentage of their incomes than they cost large agribusinesses. The best solution to unfair assessments on small farmers is to end federal agricultural price supports.

The Great 9-1-1 Tax Pileup

In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission told states to create cell-locator 9-1-1 emergency phone service and pay for it themselves. Washington miscalculated both costs and capacity, and today only 21 of 83 Michigan counties have even partially implemented this "unfunded mandate." Meanwhile, the overpaid taxes are piling up. The federal government should scrap its plan and allow the private sector to come up with the most reliable, cost-effective 9-1-1 service.

A Good Time to Cut Taxes on Jobs

Washington is keeping most of the revenue collected from employers under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), a tax that is supposed to fund the administration of state unemployment insurance programs. Congress should abolish this tax-which constitutes a direct tax on employment-and hand states back the responsibility of running their own unemployment programs.

State Lotteries vs. Truth-in-Advertising

In 1972, voters approved the Michigan Lottery, hoping it would prove a funding windfall for education. Today it does little for schools. But its government sponsors do spend $18 million per year on advertising that denigrates hard work and initiative, while luring money from those who can least afford to throw money away. Michigan should be a trendsetter and get out of the lottery business.

Unfair Competition from Prison Labor Requires a Congressional Fix

Federal Prison Industries Inc., a unit of the U.S. Justice Department that uses prison labor to provide goods and services to the federal government, is set to expand its operations into the private marketplace. A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., would rein in FPI's ambitions and protect jobs in crucial Michigan industries, such as furniture production, from FPI's unfair competition.

How Health Care Costs Help Raise Your Auto Insurance Premiums

Most Michiganians would not think to associate the rising costs of medical care with higher auto insurance premiums. But thanks to state laws governing auto insurance, the one has a direct impact on the other. One way policy-makers could keep costs of both medical care and auto insurance down is by introducing market-friendly reforms, such as medical savings accounts, into the health care system.

Two Michigan Towns with the Same Name

All across Michigan are places whose names are rich with interesting but sometimes forgotten history. In the Upper Peninsula, two towns one hundred miles apart were named for the same man: Kipling and Rudyard, after British author Rudyard Kipling. Who he was and how the towns came to honor him is a story worth retelling.

Michigan Taxpayers Feeling the Heat from Government Greed

April 29 is "Tax Freedom Day" for Michigan citizens, the day they stopped toiling exclusively to pay federal, state, and local taxes. This makes Michiganians among the most heavily taxed citizens in the nation, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

Proposals for Oil Conservation More of a Threat than Energy Dependence

A spate of proposals for reducing America's "dependence" on foreign oil have followed in the wake of Sept. 11. These proposals are misguided and would do more to undermine American strength, which lies in its economic power and stability, than dependence on foreign oil ever has, or will.

Did Anybody Really Know What Time It Was?

The U.S. government didn't set up America's system of standardized time zones-private citizens did. Until 1883, time was purely a local matter. Then railroad officials set up the current system, to "make the trains run on time." Turns out they performed a service for the rest of us as well-but Detroit resisted the change until 1905, and the U.S. government didn't "approve" the system until 1918.

The Other Meaning of Arbor Day

J. Sterling Morton, who established Arbor Day in 1872, fought protectionist economic policies that allowed lumber companies to deplete forests and charge Americans a "bounty" in the form of inflated prices. As Americans celebrate the holiday this April 26, they should remember this feisty champion of impartial economic policies and small, efficient government.

Bill Would Require Public-Sector Unions to Disclose Finances

A bill in the Michigan House of Representatives would require the state's public-sector unions to disclose their finances to the same degree of detail as publicly held corporations. The result would be stronger unions with less waste and a renewed focus on the workplace concerns of union members.

Michigan Public School Teachers Launch a Non-Union Revolution

Public schools and their employees don't win many battles against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, the political and financial behemoth that dominates Michigan public education. But recent victories over compulsory unionism in two charter schools could signal a new dynamic in Michigan's public school system.

Free Trade a Sweeter Deal for Everyone

Economists have argued for more than two centuries that protective tariffs and quotas on imported goods make nations poorer. Despite this, the United States continues its policy of sugar protectionism, which costs U.S. consumers nearly $2 billion every year. It's time for Congress to end this costly and wasteful policy.

Great Lakes Drilling: Environmental Threat or Phantom Menace?

In February, the Michigan Legislature voted to ban the extraction of oil and natural gas from beneath the Great Lakes. But sound policy demands facts, and while there may be aesthetic reasons to support a prohibition against Great Lakes drilling, insurance data confirm that the actual environmental risks are remote.

Historic Principles over Government "Historic Districts"

When buildings get to be of a certain age, they often take on historic significance. But is it necessary for that significance to overshadow time-honored principles of limited government, individual liberty, and private property rights? In August 2001, citizens of Owosso, Mich., answered a resounding "no" when they repealed a coercive city plan to regulate private homes of historic significance.

Gladstone, Michigan: A Little Town with a Big Name

The little town of Gladstone, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is named after William Gladstone, one of Britain's greatest statesmen. Over one hundred years after his death, the former prime minister is remembered for his commitment to individual freedom, which continues to provide important lessons for citizens and policy-makers of today.

Good News for the New Year: Americans Living Longer Than Ever

There's good news for the New Year: Americans are living longer than at any time in history-76.9 years, on average. This is testimony to both the vibrancy of nature and the ingenuity of man-and the industrial and technological progress fueled by free minds and free markets.

Government "Condemnation" Power Makes Property Rights Less Secure

Government abuse of its so-called condemnation power has unjustly deprived ordinary citizens of their private property for the benefit of big-league developers.

"Teach for America" Success Points the Way to Teacher Certification Reform

Much has been written on the failure of collegiate "schools of education" to properly prepare future teachers for the classroom. Now a new study highlights the good job that Teach for America, a private teacher program, is doing to place thousands of qualified and talented volunteer teachers in some of the nation's most troubled schools.

Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence

Policy-makers at all levels of government are enacting policies that require districts to measure student and school performance. But one popular method of measurement, graduation rates, may not accurately reflect either student proficiency or school excellence. The only sure way to know whether schools are providing a quality education is to introduce more choice and competition into the system, so that schools have incentives to improve.

Consumer, Not Corporate, "Greed" Is Ultimately Behind Layoffs

A business writer at one of Michigan's largest daily newspapers recently denounced corporations, blasting layoffs by "heartless" businesspeople who apparently relish giving out pink slips. But corporations do not act in a vacuum: they are merely responding to the demands of consumers, who by buying or not buying certain products determine which corporations stay in business and which fail.

Should D-DOT Work Weekends?

Few people would deny that it's normal to want weekends off work. But generous union contracts that stipulate a strict Monday through Friday work schedule for Detroit Department of Transportation employees ensure the city's bus system is less reliable and more expensive. Poor city services in turn contribute to a poorer city, a smaller tax base, fewer jobs, and ultimately lower wages for city employees, including bus mechanics and drivers.

Proposed Legislation a License to Kill Competitors for Big Auto Dealers

In the name of "protecting the public," a recently proposed package of bills would require small-time "curbside" auto dealers to obtain a state license before they could sell cars. But instead of protecting the public, licensure laws are often used by larger businesses as a way to raise barriers to new competitors and restrict consumers' choices.

State Provision of Internet Access: A Bad Idea Whose Time Shouldn't Come

In November, Gov. Engler announced the state would work to wire all of Michigan, including sparsely populated rural areas, with high-speed Internet cable. But rapidly changing technology and differing demands from consumers make the state's plan redundant at best and harmful to the telecommunications market at worst.

"Preserving" History at Bayonet Point

Preserving historic homes and buildings is a noble and worthy endeavor. But it is best accomplished using voluntary means, not the coercion of government "historic district commissions," which infringe on private property rights and often have the effect of delaying or preventing renovations of important landmarks.

Church's Campaign Against Sprawl May Do More Harm Than Good

The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit has declared that so-called urban sprawl is bad, and the full moral authority of the church will be used to influence the Michigan Legislature to stop it. But church representatives could better serve Michigan citizens by engaging in a substantive, balanced debate and focusing on the programs that earned the church a well-deserved reputation for helping to stem urban decline and foster revitalization.

Gas "Gouging" Brouhaha Ignores Lessons of Economics 101

Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and other politicians are accusing gasoline stations that raised their prices following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of "price gouging." But basic economics explains the disastrous effects that result when politicians get involved in deciding how much things "should" cost.

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law Forces Schools to Waste Money

Research shows that Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 is a costly piece of special-interest legislation that forces public schools to waste millions of dollars each year on inflated construction costs. Repealing the act-or at least exempting schools from its rules-would make school construction more affordable, save money for use in the classroom, and allow for other improvements to public education.

New Web Tool Enhances Accountability in Michigan State Government

Michigan has a reputation as a "good government" state, with a constitution that encourages transparency and openness in the legislative process. Now michiganvotes.org, a new web site that for the first time posts objective, concise, plain-English descriptions of every bill, amendment, and vote, is enhancing state government's already admirable record of accountability.

Is Michigan Public Education Improving?

Over the past decade, the state of Michigan has laid some important groundwork for improving public education, but the continued lackluster performance of many schools argues the need for more choice and competition in the system.

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime: Re-Thinking Mandatory Minimums

State legislators should reform harsh "mandatory minimum" sentencing laws that limit judges' discretionary powers and dramatically lengthen prison sentences for low-level, often first-time drug offenders-while doing almost nothing to punish the "kingpins" the laws were supposed to target.

Cash-Strapped Motor City Needs a Budgetary Tune-Up

In November, the citizens of Detroit will elect a new mayor to preside over a city steeped in debt, high taxes, and poor services. Regardless of who they choose for this honor, fed-up residents should insist that the new mayor consider privatization of assets and services as a way to give the Motor City the financial tune-up it needs.

How to Make Social Security Secure for More Americans

The president's commission on Social Security warns that benefit cuts, tax increases, or massive federal debt are necessary to keep the system solvent, unless fundamental reforms are enacted. By far the best option for younger workers, minorities, and low-wage earners shortchanged by Social Security is a system that allows them to reap more retirement income by privately investing all or part of their taxes in stocks and bonds.