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Governor outlines education reforms plan

Noah Smith


Governor Rick Snyder was in Detroit today to outline his expansive education reform plans. The governor says Michigan does not have to spend more money to improve the performance of a failing education system.

The governor say it’s largely a matter of reallocating resources to reward success and to craft a system that reflects Michigan’s new economic realities.

Governor Snyder says his education plan would refocus schools on student advancement and performance, empower teachers and hold them responsible, and offer parents more options when schools are failing.

The governor says recent test scores show too many students do not graduate from high school and, for those that do, too many are not ready for college or for 21st Century jobs.

“We have many of the resources we need. We have talented teachers. We have talented administrators, but we do need to get refocused on results, and that’s what this talk is all about to move to results-oriented system of growth and proficiency for our kids.”

The governor says Michigan’s education system should start in pre-school and make it easier for high school students to take college courses.

He traveled to Detroit to deliver his education reform speech. Detroit is the only school district in Michigan under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, who has the mission of righting the finances and improving academic performance.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Robert Bobb said:

“I think he has put a very bold plan in front of every educational institution in Michigan.” “It’s now up to all of the professionals in education – pre-K-12 in particular – to stand by him and move as aggressively as possible. This is really an education renaissance as I see it.”

In the Legislature, Republican leaders say they are generally supportive of the Republican governor’s plans. But some of the governor’s Snyder agenda will test his clout with lawmakers.

Among other things, the governor wants to tell schools, if they have empty seats, they can no longer refuse to take students from other districts. He says all districts get state money and parents and students in schools that are failing deserve more options.

The governor also wants to allow more charter schools, short of altogether lifting the cap on new charters. He says there should be no cap on charters in districts with even a single school that’s failing. And he says the state’s top performing charters should not be limited to just one school.

The governor has called for cuts to schools in his budget proposal. But his education reform plan also includes creating a pool of money to reward schools where students are advancing. The governor says the standard for getting money will not necessarily be meeting proficiency standards.

“Because we do have schools in very different places and I don’t believe it would be fair to do it on proficiency.” “It should be about while you are in that school, are they successful in helping you grow at least one year for the time you were there. For some of the most disadvantaged, hopefully they have the opportunity to grow far more than one year because of great teachers and great systems.”

The governor’s plans for teachers include merit pay and creating a class of “master teachers” whose career paths could include mentoring other instructors instead of becoming administrators.

He says there should be an alternative certification system for hard-to-find specialties such as math, science, and engineering. 

But critics say the governor’s budget plans don’t reflect many of the priorities he outlined in his speech. They say cuts to K-12 schools won’t help improve student performance, and cuts to human services won’t help children in poverty show up to school ready to learn.

The governor says the cuts he’s called for were tough choices, but the budget has to be balanced.

Snyder says he’d like his education agenda to be approved by the Legislature before its traditional July Fourth break. Snyder’s target for enacting his school reforms is the 2012-2013 school year.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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