Reinventing Education in Michigan

By Mike Brownfield | November 21, 2012


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It's difficult to think of something more fundamental to Michigan's future than ensuring a quality education for this generation and for all that follow. Tragically, though, many Michigan students are behind academically, left woefully unprepared to compete in our high-tech world.

To rectify the problem, Governor Rick Snyder proposed new ideas for reinvent education in his April 2011 Special Message on Education. Working with partners in the legislature and the community, Michigan has implemented several of the special message proposals. Governor Snyder also invited Richard McLellan, an expert in education policy, to propose other ways to implement his ideas.

This week, McLellan posted a first draft of his proposal and invited others to offer comments. At the end of the year, the governor expects that McLellan will submit a document for his review. Nothing about that document is binding and nothing about it is final. It will be up to the governor to consider those recommendations and decide what policies to propose. Ultimately, it will be up to the legislature to move forward and choose how to proceed on how best to update our state's decades-old School Aid Act.

Reinventing education is bigger than any one proposal, any one woman or man, any one governor, or any one legislator. Because it is so fundamental to our state's future, it requires ideas and input from all corners of the state -- from teachers, administrators, parents, legislators, policymakers and even students. After all, a problem this big can't be solved by one person.

Just how big is this problem?

Michigan ranked 21st in the country on per-pupil spending in April 2011, yet our students are significantly under performing in reading and math. Remarkably, 238 Michigan high schools have zero college-ready students in all subjects based on the spring 2010 ACT test. In other words, despite being among the top spenders, we're producing students who are among the worst performers. As Snyder wrote, "Michigan's education system is not giving our taxpayers, our teachers, or our students the return on investment we deserve."

In order to fix the problem, Governor Snyder laid out a series of principles for the future of education in Michigan. Central to those reforms is an idea that the governor calls "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace." In short, it means that public school funding should not be exclusively tied to the school district a child attends. "Instead, funding needs to follow the student," Snyder said. "This will help facilitate dual enrollment, blended learning, on-line education and early college."

Governor Snyder also discussed performance-based schools, expanding public charter schools, consolidating business and administrative functions to achieve savings, and new ways of training and educating teachers, among other ideas.

Now Governor Snyder is looking for input from others so we can find out how to get there. McClellan's proposal is a first look at solving the problem, but it's not final. It's the starting point of a very big conversation -- and that's a conversation we have to have. Our children's future depends on it.

Click here to read more about Governor Snyder's ideas for education reform in his Education Special Message.