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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan needs to reinvent its education system, from preschool through college, to increase the number of students who are ready for college and get a degree, Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday.
Speaking at the Governor’s Education Summit at Michigan State University, Snyder said he’ll lay out specific changes during an address Wednesday in Detroit. It will be similar to a speech he gave last month where he discussed changes he wants to see local governments embrace, including getting workers to pay more for benefits and finding more efficient ways to operate.
“What worked before doesn’t work today,” Snyder told a roomful of educators Monday. “We have to put much more focus on proficiency, on growth and on results.”
According to the governor, fewer than 50 percent of Michigan students are proficient in writing across grades 4, 7 and 11. He noted that only 16 percent of Michigan’s high school students are college-ready based on their ACT scores, and hundreds of schools had no students considered college-ready at all.
“The numbers are truly scary,” he said. “Anything less than 100 percent is not good enough.”
The governor, who has undergraduate, master’s and law degrees from the University of Michigan, said the state has a world-class higher education system, but too many students who start college never get a degree.
Snyder said he wants to work with educators to free up schools and teachers to be their best, including rewarding excellent teachers and having them help mentor other teachers. He encouraged educators to work with him to improve the Michigan school system from early childhood education through college.
“This will not be an easy change. But it’s not about simple change,” he said. “It’s about reinvention.”
The governor has proposed cutting school districts by $300 per student in addition to a $170-per-student cut that already was in place when he took office. The $170 cut was filled with federal money for many districts this year, but the federal funds won’t be available for the upcoming school year, leaving districts to absorb a $470-per-student cut.
Snyder wants to cut $300 per student so he can use the money instead to pay for community colleges and universities out of the school aid fund rather than the general fund. That move isn’t going over well with some GOP lawmakers who control the budget process. The House is proposing cuts of $285 to $331 per student, plus the existing $170 reduction, while the Senate wants to cut just $170 per student along with the $170 cut already in place.
Democrats argue any cuts will send scores of Michigan school districts to the brink of insolvency next year, and that Republicans are using money for community colleges and universities that should be going to K-12 school districts.
The state may receive more in tax revenue than it expected at the January revenue estimating conference. Dan DeGrow, superintendent of the St. Clair County regional educational service agency that provides assistance to seven school districts and 11 charter schools, said any extra money should go to school districts rather than being put into the state’s rainy day fund.
“I think it’s fair they soften the cuts” with that money, said DeGrow, a former GOP state senator.
He added that if the Republican governor wants teachers and other school employees to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums to save schools money, lawmakers should just pass a law requiring that. Otherwise, many districts will get less money next school year but not be able to get the health care savings until they renegotiate contracts, which may not end for another year or two, he said.