Over the past few months, MEA has collected input from members on key priorities they hoped to see in the education plan of our recommended candidate for governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
Her education plan was released today and I’m pleased to say that Gretchen has made good on her word to listen and act on the concerns of front-line educators and support staff. Three clear themes emerged from the input we received from about 1,000 members across the state – and all three are addressed directly in Gretchen’s plan. Those themes and some highlights from her plan are:
1) Respect for educators (pages 7-9 – an entire SECTION of the plan is dedicated to this topic!)
“Educating the next generation of Michiganders is the most important responsibility there is – leveling the playing field for kids, strengthening our economy and building a more vibrant state. Michigan students have paid for the constant attacks on education professionals, who feel undervalued and underappreciated. …
Lansing has failed to listen to educators, failed to care about what they do and failed to learn from their expertise to help all students succeed. In my administration, Michigan’s education system will focus on the needs of all students and empower teachers and other education staff.”
2) Reducing over-emphasis on standardized tests(pages 5-6)
“Employers value critical thinking, creativity and collaboration – so our education system needs to value that over rote tasks and test answers. We must stop the ineffective over-testing of students and the misuse of those results to punish schools and educators. We still need reasonable, high quality, non-duplicative, consistent assessments to help inform educators and parents about student growth, but we can do that while spending less time on testing and more time on teaching. …
[The plan includes] embracing alternative options that successfully gauge student outcomes, like work-product portfolios and year- end projects, as well as the flexibility offered in federal law about how and how often we test students.”
3) Fixing our broken school funding system (pages 9-11)
“Fixing Michigan’s broken one-size-fits-all school finance system requires a recognition that different students have different needs, which in turn have different costs to educate. With this in mind, my administration will:
* Convert to a weighted foundation allowance – one that accounts for every student’s needs – and change the financing system to address the higher costs of special education, at-risk pupils in urban, suburban and rural communities, and English language learners.
* Eliminate the $100-plus million in School Aid Fund money being spent out of the state budget on a variety of legislators’ pet projects, putting those funds back at the local level where they can support student learning best.
* Keep School Aid Fund money in K-12 and restore the School Aid Fund to its intended constitutional purpose. Since 2011-12, the SAF has spent almost $3.5 billion on non K-12 education. This must be reversed with the General Fund covering necessary funding for community colleges and universities.”
That’s just some snippets. Gretchen’s plan speaks to many more concerns raised by MEA members, including: fixing the shortages of school counselors, nurses, literacy coaches and other education staff that support student learning; improving quality and accessibility of Pre-K early childhood education and child care; addressing the transparency, accountability and growth of for-profit charter schools; and helping to make college more affordable by creating a new scholarship program for two years of debt-free postsecondary education or skills training.
Please read the plan and share it with others who care about public education as an issue in this election.