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Skilled trades, Prop 1, superintendent search big topics at governor’s education summit


Gov. Rick Snyder is getting some tough questions about the May ballot proposal to boost road funding at his education and economic summit this week in Detroit.

The plan would raise the state’s sales tax from 6% to 7% and boost road funding by about a $1 billion a year.

Early polling on the proposal has not looked promising – and some groups that are usually in step with the governor say they won’t join efforts to promote it.

Not long after Snyder made gave his opening remarks at the summit, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce announced it will not take a position on the proposal.

“After careful consideration, the Michigan Chamber has concluded there is not a consensus within our membership to either support or oppose the May 5th ballot proposal,” Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley said in a statement.

“Therefore, the Michigan Chamber will not take a position for or against Proposal 1. Between now and May 5, the Chamber will focus our efforts on educating and informing Chamber members about the proposal.”

Snyder told reporters before the announcement that Proposal 1 is critical to keep drivers safe.

“If you hit a pothole, you’re losing control of your vehicle. And if you’re avoiding it, you’re a distracted driver,” he said.

Opponents criticize the plan for including other measures – such as boosting money for schools and restoring a tax credit for the working poor. They also say a higher sales tax would hurt businesses and consumers, especially low-income Michiganders.

Skilled trades

Meanwhile, Snyder is using the summit this week to tout his efforts to boost skilled trades and career technical training in Michigan.

He says Michigan is well-positioned to lead the nation in skilled trades programs.

“There’s additional funds that’ll total about $71 million or so,” Snyder told reporters. “And it’s really for organizations that had a comprehensive plan to grow skilled trades and talent in our communities. That’s a good outcome.”

A state board last week approved $50 million in bonds to help community colleges buy equipment to expand career training programs.

The search for a new state superintendent

The summit kicks off a day before the State Board of Education (SBE) begins considering candidates to be the next state superintendent.  

SBE President John Austin was at the summit on Monday to talk about the search with Governor Rick Snyder’s office.

“I’m encouraging the governor’s folks to be very active in that as we look at who’s a leader who can ideally not only work well to advance the vision that the State Board has, but can work very well with the governor and, hopefully, the legislature on improving educational outcomes, period, because we have a long way to go,” said Austin.

Current State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is retiring this summer.

Gov. Snyder says he has had a productive working relationship with Flanagan and says he hopes the next superintendent is has a similar approach to the job.

Austin has hinted that he and other board members want someone who is more in line with the SBE’s political philosophy. The board has a large Democratic majority.

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