Business leaders continue to tell us that education is the single greatest investment our state can make if we are to grow our economy and create the next generation of jobs for Michigan workers. Whether it’s creating early childhood education opportunities for all of Michigan’s kids or pioneering new paths toward a more affordable college diploma, Michigan needs to make education our single highest priority when it comes to our state’s budget.
Unfortunately, despite this call for investing in education, Governor Snyder continues to tell us there's a new way to educate our kids that’s focused on disinvesting in our public schools and redirecting that money to charter schools and the for-profit companies that operate them.
The Education Achievement Authority is a new favorite project of the Governor’s. He’s talked frequently about his desire to expand the authority statewide and grow it exponentially while continuously removing local control from our neighborhood schools. Even at a time that Governor Snyder is starving every other school district in the state, he gladly threw an additional $2 million at the EAA in an attempt to show it’s succeeding, but the reality is, it isn’t.
In the latest MEAP scores issued just last week, only 0.9% of 3rd grade students in the EAA tested as "proficient" in reading and math. You read that correctly – less than one percent of 3rd graders in schools operated by the EAA are reading and writing at a level we should consider acceptable, a disgraceful number that the Governor should be embarrassed by.
And what about charter schools that the Governor continues to tout as better alternatives to our traditional public schools? Just last week again, it was discovered that at least 8 teachers at a new Muskegon Heights charter school system were teaching in classrooms despite lacking proper certification. These uncertified and unqualified teachers were brought in to replace highly skilled teachers at the school following its conversion to a charter system not because it was in the students’ best interest, but because it saved the company running the schools money and increased their profits.
To put it simply, Governor Snyder’s education plan is a disaster. Schools are meant to be places of learning and growth, not places where CEOs are cutting corners to turn a higher profit.
Our families have watched as billions of dollars have been stolen from the state’s School Aid Fund over the past two years to support the Governor’s tax handout to large corporations. We’ve seen class sizes soar and schools close their doors as the Governor touts his new model of education that’s focused on profits rather than results.
It’s time we stopped trying to run our schools like a business and focus on our children’s needs and their futures. We must invest in our state by investing in our schools once again and make them a place where each and every child has the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed while also investing in our community colleges and universities to create affordable access to a world class education.
You’ll be hearing more from my caucus and me in the coming weeks about our education plan that puts students first, not corporations. I hope you’ll agree that our kids deserve nothing less from us.
Michigan Senate Democratic Leader