Increase education accountability

Gretchen Whitmer

I have long believed that every child in Michigan has a birthright to a high quality education that prepares them to prosper in life — no matter where they live or what type of school they attend.

That core belief is one of the forces driving me to run for governor of Michigan, because right now our state is failing our kids. We owe it to them to change how we do things.

There are many improvements that we need to make. For starters, we should have universal access to early childhood education. We need to ensure our schools are giving kids the cutting edge skills they need to be successful in college. We should increase access to skills training for those who want to pursue careers in the trades.

When I look at the Michigan my daughters are growing up in, in some ways it hardly resembles the one I’m thinking of when I talk about my Michigan pride. At one time the finest schools on the planet were here in Michigan. We were world leaders. But today, when it comes to education Michigan is dead last in our country.

A major factor causing this decline is the lack of accountability plaguing our state.

Our leaders have not only failed our children, they’ve failed the people of Flint who trusted their government to provide clean water to drink and got poison instead. They’ve failed the people of this state who’ve been falsely accused of fraud and driven into bankruptcy by the state unemployment scandal.

And they’ve failed so many parents whose kids aren’t getting the cutting edge skills they need to be successful.

Betsy DeVos and her allies have moved our tax dollars into charter schools that have no accountability — 80 percent of which are for profit. They use money and backroom deals to shield charter schools from the same accountability we demand of public schools. As a result, our kids get left behind while the profiteers get rich.

When Michigan began its charter school experiment, the promise was that these schools would innovate and offer a higher quality education. While some charter schools are working, many are performing worse compared to traditional public schools.

We also have far too many public schools that are failing our kids, and a system of emergency management that is making the situation worse. Overall, Michigan schools — public and charters combined — rank near the bottom in the nation on key indicators of achievement like fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math.

This isn’t about one type of school being good and the other bad. It’s about holding all schools accountable for their performance. Any school that receives tax dollars should be held to the highest standards.

The education of our kids should not be a partisan issue. It should be one of our top priorities, around which I believe we can find shared goals and common ground.

I will fight for kids every single day. I refuse to accept the status quo, and I won’t be afraid to take on anyone who stands in the way of giving our kids the world class education they deserve.

Gretchen Whitmer is a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.