On the issues: How Michigan governor hopefuls plan to improve K-12 education

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News


(caption)  Chrysler Elementary School fourth graders raise both arms to show agreement with instructor Diana Skinner. Non-verbal communication, including hand and arm gestures, is an important part of the Project SEED method.  *** Project SEED method instructor Diana Skinner teaches advanced math to fourth graders at Chrysler Elementary School in Detroit. ***  Project SEED instruction combines a non-lecture, questioning method with techniques designed to encourage constant verbal and nonverbal feedback, promote student participation, and improve focus. The Project SEED method makes the class the arbiters of knowledge and gives them ownership of the material. Photos taken on Thursday, December 6, 2012. ( John T. Greilick / Detroit News )_________

Lansing — Michigan schools often struggle to earn a passing grade, but candidates running to be the state’s next governor regularly tout plans to improve student performance and educational outcomes.

Michigan students made modest gains on last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress standardized test, yet the state’s scores remained well below national averages. For a fifth straight time, Detroit students scored the lowest among big-city districts in math and reading.

Here’s how Republicans and Democrats running to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Rick Snyder say they’d improve K-12 schools.

Abdul El-Sayed: The Shelby Township Democrat says he wants to “de-DeVos” Michigan education, a reference to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of Grand Rapids. His education plan calls for creating a new independent authorizing council for charter schools and gradually banning the use of for-profit charter management companies.

El-Sayed also wants to spend more on Early Head Start programs using School Aid Fund revenue and ensure universal preschool access. Beyond K-12, El-Sayed wants to provide students from families that make less than $150,000 a year with up to four years of tuition-free college. He hasn’t spelled out a specific funding plan to do so, but ideas include taxing income above the Social Security cap and reducing corporate subsidies. Read El-Sayed's plan >>

Brian Calley: The Portland Republican wants to ensure more students are ready to learn when they reach kindergarten by coordinating existing state-supported health care, nutrition, screening, day care and early childhood education services.

Calley, who has an autistic child, said he would continue to advocate for inclusion and special education reforms developed by a task force he chaired as lieutenant governor. He also wants to develop a new professional development system that helps teachers keep up to date on best practices for teaching reading. Read Calley's plan >>

Gretchen Whitmer: The East Lansing Democrat unveiled an education plan in June that calls for increased spending to help schools give teachers a pay raise, hire additional literacy coaches and new counselors. She also wants to stop the expansion of charter schools run by for-profit management companies but would not ban current operators.

Whitmer has not detailed direct funding sources for the proposals, but her education plan calls for a review of tax code “carve-outs and targeted tax breaks that have starved the School Aid Fund.” She also wants the state to stop shifting K-12 school revenue to spend on public universities and community colleges. Whitmer has also proposed providing students with good grades two-years of free college or training. Read Whitmer's plan >>

Bill Schuette: The Midland Republican has defended DeVos and her push to expand charters and school choice in Michigan and the country. His own education proposals focus on improving student reading achievement.

Schuette wants to create a new cabinet-level Michigan Literacy Director position and put specialized reading coaches into every elementary school. He has vowed to remove “red tape” so teachers can focus on teaching and wants to give local schools more flexibility in how they use state funding. Read Schuette's plan >>

Shri Thanedar: The Ann Arbor Democrat wants to ban for-profit charter school management companies, establish statewide options for year-round school and invest $500 million in additional money into technical education and job training programs, a proposal for which he has not specified a funding source.

Thanedar has also vowed to increase overall K-12 funding, especially for districts with high percentages of at-risk students, and limit state standardized testing. Thanedar says he’d “fight for” free college for families that earn below $120,000 and accelerated debt forgiveness for graduates who stay and work in Michigan. Read Thanedar's plan >>

Patrick Colbeck: The Canton Township Republican sponsored a measure in the state Senate that would allow parents to use tax-deductible savings plans to help cover costs at any school, including private institutions. There is debate whether the accounts would be allowed under the Michigan Constitution.

Colbeck wants to repeal Common Core curriculum standards. He opposed legislation that would mandate literacy coaches and reading intervention plans but says the state should revisit teaching degree requirements to emphasize reading instruction. Read Colbeck's plan >>

Jim Hines: The Saginaw obstetrician has repeatedly stressed the need to improve reading scores to set students up for success. He’s proposed placing certified reading coaches into Michigan classrooms but not offered specifics of the policy proposal.

Hines also says he opposes Common Core curriculum standards and say there’s too much reliance on testing. He says schools should teach children to read using phonics, not just sight words. Read Hines' plan >>


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