[Photo of Audrey Spalding]

Audrey Spalding

Director of Education Policy

Audrey Spalding is the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. In this position, Spalding oversees the Center's education research and publications, including Michigan Education Digest and Michigan Education Report. She started at the Center in 2012 as an education policy analyst.

Before joining the Mackinac Center, Spalding worked as a policy analyst at the St. Louis-based Show-Me Institute, where she provided analytical research and legislative testimony on tax credits, land banking and education. Her public policy op-eds have been published in a variety of newspapers, including The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, the Battle Creek Enquirer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Business Journal and The Kansas City Star.

Prior to her time at Show-Me, Spalding was an education reporter for the Columbia Missourian, where she was a co-recipient of the 2008 Missouri Press Association's Community Service Award for her efforts to highlight school district expenditures. 

Spalding received her bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri, having majored in both journalism and economics. She is a native of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Making Michigan Right-to-Work: Implementation Problems in Public Schools

This paper examines how public school districts responded to Michigan's 2012 “right-to-work” law. It describes the key findings from reviews of more than 500 teacher collective bargaining agreements. It also raises several questions about the legality of some union contracts with regard to this new law.
Approximately 75 percent of districts with contracts subject to the right-to-work law removed language that would require employees to financially support a union as a condition of employment. Both legal and policy questions are raised by the remaining 25 percent of districts, which kept mandatory dues language in one way or another, despite having a contract that took effect or was modified after the law's effective date.
The study describes five issues with these contracts. Twenty-three contracts made no apparent changes and kept mandatory dues language. Eight districts created a separate agreement to require mandatory dues payment. Fifteen contracts were ratified before they would be subject to the right-to-work law, but then didn’t take effect until much later. Five contracts made only the mandatory dues language immediately effective, while delaying the rest of the contract. Finally, at least six districts have modified parts of their contract without making the rest of it compliant with the right-to-work law. … more

Roadblocks to Reform?: A Review of Union Contracts in Michigan Schools

This study focuses on Public Act 103 of 2011, which made teacher evaluation, layoff policies and teacher placement prohibited subjects of bargaining, among other things. After surveying 200 Michigan school district collective bargaining agreements, this study finds that as many as 60 percent of districts could have collective bargaining agreements in place that contain language prohibited by PA 103.
Some districts negotiated with their unions to add language stating that if circumstances changed, pages of prohibited language would take immediate effect. Others simply changed the word “teacher” in order to keep the prohibited language but have it apply to other staff members. Finally, some districts appear to have kept prohibited language without explanation.
This study includes further examples and lists of districts that kept the prohibited language in their contracts. As a solution, penalties could be added to the collective bargaining reform laws in order to encourage district compliance. … more

The Public School Market in Michigan: An Analysis of Schools of Choice

This study examines the use of Schools of Choice throughout Michigan over the last decade. Nearly 100,000 Michigan students use Schools of Choice to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. Participation has grown steadily, with enrollment growing by 144 percent over the past 10 years.
This study finds that students enter districts that have higher graduation rates and higher test scores. On average, Schools of Choice students chose districts with higher pupil-teacher ratios, lower expenditures per pupil and higher average teacher salaries.
 … more

A New Turnaround Model: Michigan's Highland Park Goes Charter

This brief examines the series of events that led to the Highland Park school district being converted to a system of charter public schools in 2012. Used as a strategy to help the district eliminate its large fiscal debt while still providing resident students with a local public school option, Highland Park's charter conversion is one of the first of its kind in the state and even the nation.
During the first year of charter school operation, students demonstrated significant learning gains, with some grades posting academic growth far above the average Michigan student. … more

Michigan's Top-to-Bottom Ranking: A Measure of School Quality or Student Poverty?

This study examines the state’s “Top-to-Bottom” ranking, which has been repeatedly criticized by educators for appearing to be correlated with school poverty rates. Mackinac Center research finds that schools that serve more lower-income students tend to receive lower scores on the TTB list.
These results matters because TTB rankings are used to impose consequences on low-ranking schools. This study suggests that Michigan should look at how other states rank schools in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of penalizing schools that serve lower-income students. It also makes the case that a choice-based accountability system is preferred, as it would allow students to escape schools that are not serving their needs and reduce the risk of penalizing undeservedly low-ranked schools. … more