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Governor’s State of the State speech about more than roads

Isn’t it ironic that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State proposals — especially her efforts to fix the roads — caught the most flak from the folks who refuse to come up with real solutions of their own?

Whitmer is taking action because last fall the Legislature dragged its feet for months before sending her its own budget with merely days before the deadline. Now, with the Rebuilding Michigan bonding program, the administration has come up with another plan that will fix some of the worst and most-traveled state roads in the next five years.

Whitmer is fighting hard for Michigan residents every day by presenting a budget that would improve education and skills for students at every level, protect our families and public health, fight the climate crisis, ensure workers are compensated for their labor, and take steps to clean up Michigan’s water. 

Whitmer is trying to give kids in our state what they’ve desperately needed for years: the largest increase for funding in 20 years with a specific focus on districts with low test scores and those in poverty-stricken areas. This even includes reimbursing teachers who pay out-of-pocket for classroom supplies — something that happens far too often.

She’s also proposed a Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies plan that would make sure every person in Michigan who chooses to have a child will have the resources she needs to have a healthy pregnancy, delivery and postpartum period.

She’s also included proposals that would expand access to child care for kids across Michigan, allow state employees to take 12 weeks of paid parental leave, and expand overtime rights to thousands of Michigan workers. 

Her speech was more than just about the roads; it was about compassion toward the people who entrust her with power. 

Sam Inglot, deputy director, Progress Michigan

Whitmer’s focus on families doesn’t violate third grade reading law

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not breaking the law by pledging to help families navigate Michigan’s third grade reading law, which will fail as many as 5,000 third graders based on one high-stakes standardized test, the M-STEP, they take this spring.

In his recent op-ed, “Whitmer’s rebellion hurts our kids” (Feb. 5), Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, accuses Whitmer of wild, Wild West-style lawlessness because of an initiative she announced in her 2020 State of the State speech — public-private partnerships with philanthropic organizations to support families that will be most impacted by the third grade reading retention mandate signed by the previous administration.

While there are some exemptions built into the retention mandate of 2016, the process for getting one for a child will be complicated for families. The concern is that parents and guardians will need help to understand it because they may not be aware that they have the lawful right to weigh in — and have their child exempted from the law.

A prudent and proactive approach, such as what Whitmer is suggesting, that informs parents about their rights, is essential.

The governor is supportive of measures in the law that would truly help kids read, such as progress monitoring of students on their reading abilities, using early literacy coaches and reading intervention programs, providing K-3 teachers with professional development opportunities on reading, and notifying parents of early literacy delays and providing them with “Read at Home” plans.

In fact, I introduced Senate Bill 633 in early November to amend the law and keep only these beneficial parts while eliminating mandatory grade retention based on a student’s standardized test score.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, Democratic vice chair

Senate Education Committee

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