FREEP Breakfast Club - Governor Whitmer's Thoughts on Education

February 19, 2019

Bright and early on the morning of Friday, January 18th, Nechole-Drake McClendon, our Program Manager, Pamela Moore, our President & CEO, and I attended the Detroit Free Press’ second annual Breakfast Club speaker series. We were accompanied by five juniors from DPSCD’s Communication and Media Arts High School who are currently studying political science in their Advanced Placement World History class. Their teacher, Mr. Rodney Fresh, also joined us! Despite the early hour, we were all excited to hear Governor Whitmer speak about her plans for education reform.

Governor Whitmer began by stating her strategy to focus on bipartisan issues. She mentioned how the Mackinac bridge was built during a time of tension between parties, but Michiganders put their differences aside to grow the economy and better the State. Governor Whitmer’s goal is to build her own bridges, because “potholes are not partisan,” and neither is education.

Having a grandfather who was a superintendent for the School District of the City of Pontiac, education reform is especially important for Governor Whitmer. She spoke to the disconnect between the discussions in Lansing and what is actually happening on the ground at schools. For example, she told the audience how the decision to have school start after Labor Day was made to support tourism, not students. She said decisions such as these are not sustainable.

The State’s decision to close schools when they are not performing well is also not sustainable, said Governor Whitmer. By closing schools, the State would be abandoning families who are often already struggling economically and don’t have access to transportation to send their children elsewhere. This issue leads back to the adequacy of funding. Governor Whitmer said that “equal is not equitable,” and in Districts such as DPSCD there needs to be more money given per pupil, as well as wraparound support, to compensate for high levels of poverty.

Governor Whitmer also stated the need to increase the education quality of lower performing schools and districts. She said that a good first step is to set attainment goals, because when a goal is set it is much easier to measure progress and success. Governor Whitmer believes that it is necessary to dismantle the idea that all students need to go to college. Promoting skilled trades will help many students succeed, as well as helping to close the skilled trades gap in Michigan’s economy.

At the end of her talk, Governor Whitmer stated that everyone needs to work hard and contribute to education reform, from foundations to businesses. While the government can push the State in the right direction, it cannot create a solution by itself.

Our students listened attentively throughout the talk, and then shared their thoughts:

“This event was great! It’s nice to know someone cares and wants to help DPSCD and Districts like ours.” – Imari Carl

“My experience at this brunch was very informational. I learned a lot about Governor Whitmer. She addressed issues I was concerned about. Overall this was a great experience.” – Na’Kiva Lane

“This was a great experience and opportunity to learn about the responsibilities of the Governor and her goals for Michigan.” – Joshua Thomas

“This event taught me the challenges of politics and the desire to join.” – Caleb Bailey

“This was a great experience. I learned a lot about being a Governor and about politics.” – Robert Rivers

While she made many good points throughout her talk, what stuck with me the most was Governor Whitmer’s discussion of how education fits within government. Although it is not directly stated in the constitution, she said “I believe that a great education is a constitutional right.” It is affirming to know how much she cares, and how hard she will fight to improve districts such as DPSCD.

 

This post was revised on February, 21st, 2019. A previous version stated that Governor Whitmer supports the A-F Grading System, which is false. We apologize for the mistake.

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