Education Should be High Priority after Snyder Sworn in as Governor

Education Should be High Priority after Snyder Sworn in as Governor
November 5, 2010/The Detroit News

When newly elected governor Rick Snyder steps into office, he will have many matters to address, including the state budget deficit and Michigan's high unemployment rate. But amid all the issues clamoring for his attention, education must be a priority.

The Michigan education system is hurting. The state suffers from a dire high school dropout rate in addition to having too few adult workers with a post-high school training. Reform needs to come from the top, and Snyder could provide the energy essential for real results.

Snyder listed education reform as No. 8 on his 10-point plan to reinvent Michigan. He has said "the long-term economic success of a region or state depends on its ability to educate, prepare and train the next generation of workers." On his website, he included rankings from the American Legislative Exchange Council showing that Michigan ranks near the bottom of school performance in the nation, even though the state is in the top 20 percent for teacher compensation and per-student spending. Snyder suggests the state should "reduce overhead costs, track real results, reward good performance, handle failing schools and leverage the private sector to improve the quality of education."

We hope he follows through with such plans as soon as possible.

The state has made strides to toughen academic standards. The new high school graduation requirements passed in 2006 have translated into higher test scores.

But there is plenty of room for improvement. Only three states have a higher dropout rate than Michigan. Around 75 percent of young people graduate from high school in the state, and in Detroit, that plummets to a startling 59 percent. Michigan Education Superintendent Mike Flanagan — who is trying to address this problem — could use the firm backing of a fresh presence in Lansing.

In regard to higher education, Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, says Michigan needs to balance its tuition costs with state funding if it's going to ensure education opportunities for all students, including those from underprivileged backgrounds. "Higher education is the most important economic development tool," Boulus says.

Currently, state universities get 70 percent of their funding from tuition — with 30 percent coming from state aid. Around 30 years ago, these numbers were reversed, with 75 percent of a university's budget coming from state funding.

The state is at a crossroads, Boulus says, and a new governor could help make the state what Boulus terms an "equal partner" in higher education. He thinks this would help combat the low number — only slightly more than 25 percent — of adults working in Michigan with a college degree.

Investing in all stages of education is important, but the new governor needs to ensure that taxpayer money is getting results.

And Snyder with his business background and "customer service" focus seems committed to doing just that.

From The Detroit News:

Posted on Friday, November 05, 2010 (Archive on Wednesday, November 11, 2015)
Posted by rcline  Contributed by rcline