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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.

"Streamlined Sales Tax" Just Another Government Grab for Cash

The National Governors' Association's "Streamlined Sales Tax Project" is being sold as a way to apply existing sales and use taxes to Internet, catalog, and 1-800 number purchases fairly and uniformly. But the project would not only be unfair to out-of-state vendors, it would also result in higher taxes, threaten consumers' privacy, and even open the door to a national sales tax.

Less Government, Not More, Is Key to Academic Achievement and Accountability

A comprehensive new study of Arizona charter schools suggests that proposals to increase government regulation of charter schools in Michigan could stifle, not encourage, student achievement and school accountability.

Private Prepaid Tuition Programs Can Help Make College Affordable

Rising tuition threatens to drive the cost of college beyond the reach of many lower- and middle-income families. But a little-known provision signed into law by President Bush as part of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act of 2001 will make affording college a bit easier for many Michigan families.

State Land Use Planning: Less Is More

Elected officials in many states are gearing up to do something, almost anything, about so-called "urban sprawl." But before moving Michigan toward a more centrally planned land-use model, state policy-makers should consider why local governments and the free market are better equipped to deal with local land use issues.

School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?

Proposal A of 1994 dramatically altered the way Michigan public schools are funded, and now many districts are complaining about a lack of money to meet their budgetary needs. But school revenues are up from pre-Proposal A levels, raising the question, "Are there things that districts can do more efficiently in order to better use the resources they already have?"

Michigan Economy Needs to Join the Information Age

For much of American industrial history, Michigan entrepreneurs including Ford, Kellogg, and Dow figured prominently in the emerging U.S. economy. But if Michigan is to lead in the 21st century "information age," then our cities must rid themselves of high taxes, burdensome regulations, and wasteful bureaucracy and begin to think and act like the very entrepreneurial firms they need to attract.