Friday, October 16, 2009

Granholm Honored as National Education Policy Leader of the Year

Kathy Barks Hoffman nailed it right away. "Bittersweet". Yes, it surely is, when you realize that between the Great Recession and our cowardly legislators, public education is going to take a major hit in Michigan, and exceptional, award-winning policy will stop or go into hibernation due to lack of spine from those we have trusted with our future development.

The reason I'm such a strong supporter of this governor is because deep down I know she's right about damn near everything when it comes to policy. The two-penny service tax plan was the correct way to go, and business groups and others are finally coming around to that way of thinking. Renewable energy jobs are one of the fastest growing sectors in the national economy, so that's what she has pursued. Same with life sciences and health care and advanced manufacturing. The movie industry brings jobs and investment, and perhaps even more important, tons of free national publicity that will draw the creative class to our state and keep our young people here. The list is endless, these are just a few things off the top of my head.

One of the most crucial things for both quality of life and economic development in any state is education. From early childhood education through college and beyond, or, specialized training in these "new economy" growth sectors - not only do we need education to compete nationally, but it's a must to compete globally. We all know this.

Today, the National Association of State Boards of Education, a "nonprofit association that represents state and territorial boards of education, serves as a vital resource for states in the areas of research, policy development and skills training", named Governor Granholm "Policy Leader of the Year". Looking at the list of the things that they cited, your heart kind of breaks to realize that our Legislature is going to cut a lot of these items to the bone, either because they slavishly serve the "drown government" Bush Republican teabagger crowd, or they want to use these horrible cuts to, oh, let's say, make their own run for governor. The tragedy is ours, though. We are on the right track, and they are going to derail the train to serve their own selfish interests.

  • Expanding preschool programs and creating a public-private partnership, the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, to improve early childhood care and education;

  • Adopting some of the most rigorous K-8 content standards and high school graduation requirements in the nation;

  • Creating the Michigan Promise scholarship - the first universal college scholarship - which sets the expectation that students will continue their education beyond high school;

  • Establishing Promise Zones, new public-private partnerships in 10 Michigan communities with high poverty rates, that will guarantee all children the financial support to obtain a college degree;

  • Developing the Michigan College Access Network, another public-private partnership, linking Michigan communities together to help more students not only attend college but also to succeed in earning degrees and other credentials;

  • Launching the No Worker Left Behind job-training program in 2007 that provides qualifying participants two years of free tuition up to $10,000 at any Michigan community college, university or other approved training program. This month, enrollment in the program topped 100,000.

  • I believe that some money was put back into early childhood in the budget, but it is taking a cut. The Republicans wanted to cut it completely. The Promise Scholarships, you know the story there. The Promise Zones are part of law and don't tap additional expenditures as far as I know, but I wonder how those fare with the monster cuts that are coming to K-12. It hasn't come up, and I'm not sure exactly how the funding works. The College Access network is about the increased sharing of information on financing and training programs, again, that one hasn't come up either. No Worker would have been cut to almost nothing, but the feds stepped in and saved our sorry souls there. Thank God. These are the things that Governor Granholm is currently fighting for, to try and restore at least some funding to the budget - along with other big issues like public safety and health care as well.

    You have seen the answer from Mike Bishop. "No!", as he stomps his feet and pouts and threatens to leave veto money on the ground, all the while still refusing to do his job and turn in the six remaining budgets. Dillon simply left town yesterday, a working day mind you, to attend a business luncheon on - get this - "The Future of Michigan’s Economy". The irony there is beyond words. The House still hasn't addressed the K-12 revenue issue, even though Bishop claims that they will pass the "rob the poor and give to business and create a bigger deficit later" tax cut plan.

    Knowing how this has all gone down, they probably will vote with the Republicans to do just that. And we can sit back and watch it all go up in flames. One of the biggest raps on the governor has been that she is "too damn nice" and hasn't been "tough enough" with the Legislature, and she should have pushed for tax increases - and I would agree with that, to some extent - but she shouldn't have to bully these guys into supporting common sense policy such as funding public education. Get real here. These are adults, supposedly. It should be a given.

    Someday, we will look back and remember how we were on the path to prosperity with exceptional policy such as the things listed above, and how politics ended up knocking us off the track. Perhaps then we will learn from our mistakes, elect leaders who will put the state before personal ambition, and get back in the game.

    We are going to need to make up for the lost time we suffered courtesy of the 95th Legislature.