Supporting Ann Arbor Public Schools
As your State Representative I will fight to provide the resources and leadership that will help make Ann Arbor Public Schools the best in the nation. To achieve this ambitious goal, I will fight to preserve and enhance funding for public schools. I will work with teachers and school administrators to enact the necessary cost-saving reforms to focus our resources on student achievement. If we want to be the best, Michigan must employ and support the best teachers, implement the best teaching methods and realize the highest rates of graduation and achievement in America. Also, we’re going to have to implement some key reforms and new initiatives that will restore Michigan’s proud heritage as a national leader in education.
Fortunately, Ann Arbor Public Schools is already a strong system with high-quality employees and leadership committed to constant improvement. I think they – and all of Michigan’s public schools -- need a willing partner in state government. We have a strong foundation to build from locally, and here’s how I think Lansing can do better:
Focus our spending on student outcomes
- Education research shows that teachers are the most important factor in student achievement. With resources in short supply, our state needs to help our school districts keep the money where the students are. In other words, our legislature should take the lead on maximizing the classroom experience by reducing administrative and overhead costs in the schools. I will start by proposing a cap on public school salaries that prevents any district from paying any employee more than the Governor’s salary. We need to attract and retain the best educators to work directly with our students and exorbitant salaries for administrators takes resources out of the classroom.
Teach more foreign languages
- I believe that education is mostly about learning how to learn and that there is simply no better way to learn how to learn than to acquire additional language skills. One factor that distinguishes the American system from many other educational systems worldwide is that we teach languages later and with less emphasis. I want to change that. I will fight to make the introduction of at least one foreign language mandatory for elementary schools within a manageable timetable. My goal would be that every young adult graduating from a public high school in Michigan should have a working knowledge of at least two foreign languages. As the Earth becomes smaller and more connected, these skills become even more important. Not only does this type of transformation of our educational system prepare young minds better to learn in general, it prepares them with indispensible skills to succeed in the modern world. We will truly be developing lifelong learners.
Expand alliances among pre-K, K-12 and higher education
- Programs such as EMU’s Early College Alliance1 link school districts with colleges and universities in ways that open up new educational avenues for students. Through programs such as this, high school students can gain access to specialized classes, experience college level material and get a head-start accumulating college credits before they leave high school. The State of Michigan should encourage and incentivize productive collaborations between schools and colleges.
Mandate fairness between charter schools and public schools
- Charter schools in general don’t have a good record of success in Michigan. Although some charters boast strong metrics of success, in general they underperform when compared to public schools. This is true even though charter schools can pick and choose which students and families to accept while public schools willingly (and by law) accept every student that comes through their doors. Charter schools are not mandated to provide accommodations or services for special education students. And students who misbehave can be expelled and sent back to the public schools. In fact, a charter school can accept a student, keep them through ‘count day’ – thereby securing public funds meant for that students’ education – and then send that student back to public schools. This saps energy from our public system and I believe the public funds should follow the student.
Implement cost-saving reforms that make sense
- I’ve always been an advocate of looking at ways to accomplish the same tasks for less money. Public resources are tight and during my time as a County Commissioner we’ve enjoyed considerable success in collaborating with other local governments.2 Similarly, I believe we can find significant savings by encouraging school districts to collaborate or even consolidate certain services. Bigger isn’t always better, but there are opportunities to save money in school administration and ‘backoffice’ functions that have little connection to the educational experience or community identity of our schools. I believe that our state government can promote these types of common sense cost-saving measures by providing incentives for consolidation and resources for schools to investigate and implement these opportunities.
Support early childhood education
- As a County Commissioner I have had the opportunity to learn much about the Perry School and the cutting edge research performed in Ypsilanti on the benefits of early childhood education. The legacy of early childhood education programs here in Washtenaw County is especially strong and I’ve been proud to continue that legacy by supporting the County’s efforts with regards to Head Start. School readiness is crucial and programs like Head Start are effective in promoting success. As your State Representative I will support greater investment in early childhood education and school readiness.
2Washtenaw County has realized cost-savings by collaborating with other local governments on Human Resources, Information Technology, Community Development and recently 911 dispatch. These collaborations preserved services to the public and our public institutions and saved money.