(Editor's note: This article contains a correction to the version originally published. The decline in private-sector employees' compensation is now correctly stated as 5.1 percent.)

Spokespersons for Michigan government employee unions contend that they have given up hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and benefit concessions over the past few years. The claims are in dispute, and data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis offers some support for those challenging them. It shows that since 2000, government-employee compensation in Michigan has increased 11.4 percent, while private-sector employees are getting 5.1 percent less.

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Government and Private Sector Compensation in Michigan, 2000-2009

The trend continued in 2009. Average compensation per employee — which includes the value of benefits — was down 2.0 percent for private sector employees but increased 3.6 percent for Michigan's state and local government employees.

Overall, the total amount spent statewide on private-sector compensation, as opposed to the average compensation per worker, was 10.2 percent lower in 2009, while total state and local government compensation increased 2.6 percent. This reflects the contraction of the Michigan private sector workforce last year, as well as the lower level of compensation per worker.

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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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