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Education, Immigration Top of Mind for Growth Council

October 18, 2023

The Growing Michigan Together Council heard recommendations Thursday from four workgroups, many of which had overlapping recommendations, including better, updated education and immigration attraction.

Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Chandra Madafferi talked about the need to update the education system that was designed for a different time with an outcome of some exceptional students, many in the middle and some low-end, with an economy ready to take all students for the workforce.

“That system still produces that bell-shaped curve of performance, but that kind of economy no longer exists,” Madafferi said.

She said “political and historical volatility in the state around school reform” prevented the pre-K-12 education workgroup from coming to a consensus on the recommendations to the council, and almost as if to prove her point, Great Lakes Education Project Executive Director Beth DeShone released a statement completely panning the recommendations and called the group “partisan.”

“Michigan’s public school bureaucracy has failed, and Gretchen Whitmer isn’t serious about fixing it. Parents have been clear about what the need to catch up after the Governor locked them out of their schools. Parents need options,” DeShone said.

Along with the updates, Madafferi and Education Leadership Consultant Karen McPhee, who worked with former Gov. Rick Snyder, recommended working with teachers to change how they teach and get more teachers.  There was also a recommendation to clarify the roles of teachers.

Ferris State University President Bill Pink and Henry Ford College President Russell Kavalhuna, with the higher education workgroup, said the state was the biggest importer of students, but a big exporter of graduates.  Aggregated every year, there were 1,660 students coming into the state to go to school and 5,500 leaving the state after graduation.

“I know there’s a public debate about whether higher education is useful or not, but truthfully, anyone who spends any time looking at the best jobs, the best communities, requires either a high percentage of people with boring degrees or good things chasing those people, and we’re exporting that,” Kavalhuna said.

Based on that, the council recommended the state look at jobs that would let graduates get out of college and end up immediately in employment, whether they were from the area, out of state or international students.

“Whether they are starting here or coming here, we should keep them here,” Kavalhuna said.

Pink recommended the creation of a pre-school through community college education system that could work seamlessly into a university education, or if not into a technical field that would train students for the workforce.

The recommendation also included a universal requirement to fill out the free application for student aid, or the FAFSA, which was currently being discussed by the Legislature and opposed by the State Board of Education.

To do that would require funding and the recommendation was made on how that would be sustainable.

The last recommendation was to get businesses to partner with colleges and universities so more opportunities for internships, paid or credit, would be available to give students real-world experience in their fields.

InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante and Focus:HOPE CEO Portia Roberson, with the jobs and talent workgroup, touched on the need for education while looking at the shortage of workforce and question of how to keep people in Michigan.

The biggest untapped portion for positive population growth for the state would be to attract international immigrants to the state.

“We must be intentional and strategic about it,” Roberson said.

The recommendations were made to create an international pipeline of talent for jobs and education, but keep them because of friendly and welcoming communities.  Family support for communities was also recommended.

Terri Lynn Land and Regine Beauboef made recommendations regarding infrastructure and places, emphasizing the money required to fix the crumbling infrastructure, bringing up that investment in local government would be recommended.

Other recommendations included investment in statewide transportation systems, water infrastructure, using economic development money to create plots where businesses could just plop down and solving the housing crisis.

“This whole thing about density in communities, kids want that. They want to go to a community where they can walk to work, where they can walk to the bar, walk to entertainment centers, art centers and public transport,” Land said.

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter


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