Opinion: Closing skills gap must be top priority in Michigan
As superintendent of Wayne RESA, I see firsthand the skills gap that continues to separate Michigan’s students from good-paying jobs in competitive fields.
Through no fault of their own, students here in Wayne County and across Michigan continue falling behind, causing them to lose out on opportunities to their peers in other states and around the globe.
This gap is especially noticeable in our poorest areas and communities of greatest need. Closing this skills gap will benefit our business climate with the potential to dramatically change the landscape of our most depressed neighborhoods and communities by providing good-paying jobs.
Michigan’s broken school funding approach fails to meet the unique needs of our students, or provide the skills needed for them to compete in the fiercely competitive modern workforce.
This problem dates back many years, and represents a continued disservice to our kids, Michigan’s families and our state’s ongoing economic comeback.
Businesses from Detroit, to west Michigan to the Upper Peninsula rely on our public schools to provide students with career and life skills needed to succeed. Yet more than 10,000 jobs continue to go unfilled in Michigan. That’s unsustainable, and now is the time for action.
To improve student achievement across Michigan, we must meet students where they are in their learning development.
That means providing a wide range of support services to meet the needs of English Language Learners, students with severe learning disabilities and students living in poverty.
Fortunately, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a new school funding plan that serves the needs of all students, regardless of their circumstances.
Whitmer’s 2020 budget includes an additional $507 million to help all students achieve and succeed. If passed, her budget would make significant strides toward improving every classroom in every corner of Michigan, providing all students the chance to succeed.
I proudly support Whitmer’s school funding plan, which creates a weighted formula to improve classroom resources for:
- Special education needs
- Low-income and at-risk children
- Career and Technical Education programs
The governor’s proposed budget also improves skills and career training opportunities statewide, helping students prepare for college, technical school, apprenticeships or jobs right after graduation.
I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to work with Whitmer on passing a new, fairer school funding method that provides the building blocks for student success. The governor’s proposal is the right first step to meeting the needs of all our students.
On our current path, our kids will continue falling behind in a competitive economy that demands a skilled workforce more every day.
Whitmer’s plan begins to address this crisis once and for all and gives all students the same opportunity to get a high-quality education and compete for the jobs of the future.
Randy Liepa, Ph.D., is Wayne RESA superintendent.