Our politics are characterized by hyper partisanship and an unwillingness to tackle the big issues. So at a time when leadership matters most, we get inaction. There is some good news. The State Board of Education – on a bipartisan basis – is tackling the issue of how do you provide quality teaching and learning from birth through higher education in a time of dramatically shrinking resources. They deserve our praise!
Their framework for action can be found here. Worth reading and getting engaged. It is organized around the principle that what matters is providing quality services, not a funding level or preserving the way we provide those services today. That the priority is the students, not the providers. Also, rather than just another category of government spending, education – human capital development – is the most important ingredient in growing the Michigan economy.
The framework describes a base level of services for early childhood, k-12 and higher education that the Board believes is required if we are to prepare Michiganians for the 21st Century. And then begins to tackle the hard issue of how to pay for the services. Rather than an either/or choice – the way the debate is currently framed – they propose both spending cuts in areas that do not effect providing services to students and tax increases and restructuring. In addition, they recommend regulatory reform at the state level to allow for more flexibility and innovation in the provision of teaching and learning.
All three steps are difficult politically. They involve all of us giving something up. They take on core constituencies in both parties. But our budget problems are so severe and the need to increase human capital so important that doing all three is necessary if we want to recreate a high prosperity Michigan. More of the same – a reduced quality of services for students of all ages – is a recipe for continued economic decline.