The governor is supposed to deliver a major speech on education this week.
We also don’t know what he’s going to say, though his spokesperson indicates that he is going to talk about systems of education, and producing results.
And that much is hopeful. So far, most of the education debate across the state has been over the wrong question. We’ve been arguing over whether teachers are paid too much and receive benefits that are too generous, and that’s not the point.
Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction, hasn’t said much about policy issues. But his predecessor, Tom Watkins, has been anything but silent. Now a business and education consultant, Watkins says we have seen the enemy, and it is the status quo. “We have one chance now to help prepare our kids and our state for the future,” he told me. “Let’s not blow it.”
Watkins, who was pushed out of his job by Jennifer Granholm midway through her administration, is a Democrat who has been cautiously supportive of some of Republican Governor Rick Snyder‘s initiatives.
However, when it comes to education, Watkins asked a trillion dollar question in a recent Muskegon Chronicle column:
“If we had just discovered these two Michigan peninsulas, with 1.7 million school-age children, would we re-create the education system that now exists? The answer is a resounding NO!”
He thinks we need to go back to the drawing board. He urges our leaders, “Let‘s live up to our image as an ‘innovation state,’ one that sets the trend for new ways of doing things, and create new possibilities for learning, with more sense of urgency.”