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Point of View: The Policy of Education

Wayne Schmidt

Senator (R-Traverse City)


How is the legislature working to improve Michigan’s educational attainment? 

As chair of the K-12 and Michigan Department of Education budgets, I am always fighting to ensure education is accessible for all Michigan residents. We’ve strived to pass budgets that focus on students and their learning needs and pass legislation that empowers students to achieve great things. I’ve fought for increased funding for school-based mental health clinics, early-learning programs, early literacy, and progress is being made with at-risk programs. I’ve also been a tireless advocate for 10 Cents A Meal, which is a program that helps our schools purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. The program has been successful in helping ensure students can focus on their education while also receiving a healthy and balanced diet.

Does the school funding formula need to change to provide more resources to schools in low-income areas?

Providing the proper school funding for all schools in this state continues to be a priority of mine as chairman. I am a firm believer in, and have been an avid supporter in, the 2x formula. It shouldn’t matter if you go to school in the Upper Peninsula or Detroit, all students deserve a great education. We need to continue with the base level, and per-pupil funding levels should be made equal as soon as is feasible. We also need to continue to provide additional funding and resources to adequately serve students with individual needs and circumstances – such as students with disabilities, at-risk students and students with limited English proficiency.

What education reforms would you like to see? 

The Michigan Legislature has passed several impactful reforms that encourage students to pursue a career in the trades and we’ve had great success with these programs. I’d like to see a similar reform in place to encourage our students to pursue a career in teaching. We have consistently been focusing on what is working and what is not for the education community and Michigan students — and I would like to see the Legislature and Governor come together to continue this effort.

Wayne Schmidt is a Republican representing Michigan’s 37th District.

Dayna Polehanki

Senator (D-Livonia)


How is the legislature working to improve Michigan’s educational attainment? 

There have been a great number of education bills introduced into the Legislature this session. However, very little has actually passed both chambers. I would like to see the Legislature act on my bill repealing mandatory retention of third-graders, which is set to take effect this year for the first time. Additionally, I would like to see the Senate act on bills to remove the student growth portions of teacher evaluations. Finally, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for Michigan to heavily invest in early literacy is paramount. It is anticipated that there will be significant learning losses, and it is imperative for us to invest in getting students up to speed.

Does the school funding formula need to change to provide more resources to schools in low-income areas?

Our current school funding model is broken. I introduced a joint resolution to fund community colleges and universities from the General Fund instead of the School Aide Fund. Additionally, I support the School Finance Research Collaborative. This non-partisan organization reported that we are under-funding each student by at least $1,000. They also noted that the cost to educate students varies, dependent on their needs. Students who are in special education programs, English language programs, or career technical education, all cost more to educate. Their plan is to move our state toward equitable funding, which will allow schools to better meet the needs of each student. This model will require more revenue than we are currently putting toward pre-K-12 education.

What education reforms would you like to see? 

Reducing the amount of standardized testing that students endure each year. One example is the ACT WorkKeys test. It is designed to pair students with potential employers. However, the test is rarely used, time consuming, and expensive. Additionally, we have a teacher shortage that may turn into a crisis. To make progress on this we need to better compensate teachers, revise punitive evaluation systems, and respect the tremendous work they do daily. •

Dayna Polehanki is a Democrat representing Michigan’s 7th District.