Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An Open Letter to Michigan Lawmakers

We can no longer ignore the importance of education to Michigan’s future. It is an investment that will pay dividends in the future.

According to Lou Glazer, President of Michigan Future, Inc., “Michigan universities bring in one billion dollars annually of federal funds and employ thousands of knowledge workers. Places where new knowledge is being created have a big edge in being the places where new technologies are commercialized.”

Michigan has the potential to be a leader in emerging markets, including technology, alternative energy, health care, and education. We have citizens who are experts in these areas – or who are willing to learn new skills to become experts. Our education institutions need adequate funding to make this happen.

In a global, knowledge-based economy, every student graduating from high school needs to attend a vocational school, community college, or university to be successful. An education must be affordable; if it is not, many will be unable to get the education needed to prepare for a job in a growing industry.

The survival of Michigan businesses depends on a diverse and educated workforce. We do not want Michigan to fall behind the rest of the United States because our residents cannot afford an education. 

According to Thomas Haas, president of Grand Valley State University, “Michigan’s public universities are engines of job creation. Our universities create the next generation of teachers, engineers, nurses, doctors, researchers, inventors, and community leaders.”

There are ways to offset at least some of the costs associated with such investments. Students who receive scholarships and other forms of financial aid, for example, could be required to give back to the community through volunteer work. They could teach senior citizens or unemployed workers technology skills, provide fitness classes and nutrition workshops in their communities, tutor K-12 students to boost graduation rates, or help maintain our “Pure Michigan” ecosystems.

Michigan needs to invest in education to create an innovative workforce. This innovative workforce will bring economic prosperity back to Michigan. An investment in education now will secure the well being of future generations.   

According to the Michigan Education Association - Political Action Committee (MEA-PAC), public education is under attack due to evaluation, privatization, right-to-work, cyber and charter schools. To rebuild Michigan’s middle class, we must rebuild our public schools. 

Instead, $1 billion has been taken from our children’s classrooms to pay for a $1.8 billion tax break for big corporations, including those that outsource our jobs. Macomb county public school students have lost more than $200 million in the last four years. 

Meanwhile, there has been an expansion in for-profit charter and cyber schools without ensuring accountability. Stand up for public education and support our local schools.