A WORLD CLASS EDUCATION

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“I wonder what we would wish for if we paused on the playground or classroom to really see someone for the entirety of who they are and where they rose from. My favorite definition of education is that it is ‘an enlightening experience’ and I'm resolved to ensure that every Michigander has the opportunity to shine brightly by expanding their hearts and minds through free, quality public education in the Great Lakes State.”

Talent fuels prosperity across Michigan. Talent drives business growth. Talent creates higher wages. And talent fosters innovation.

There’s no shortage of talent in Michigan. What’s missing is a clear agenda in Lansing for developing talent and keeping it here.

To do that, we need more than speeches and buzzwords from politicians. We need action. And it starts with creating educational opportunities for all age groups across the 18th State Senate District and our state.  

Education has been the key to the success of my family and millions of others in Michigan. My parents left India in 1970 so my father could earn his PhD in civil and structural engineering at Michigan State University and we could have a better life in Michigan. I graduated from great public schools here. And I wouldn’t have been able to start two socially conscious businesses without what I learned earning two degrees at the University of Michigan.

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As a mom of four, I want my kids — and all kids in Michigan — to have the opportunity for success.

Improving education for pre-K and K-12 students in Michigan is one of my top priorities. A high-quality education is the right of every child, not a privilege. We must increase per-pupil funding so more money gets into the classroom, where it’s needed most. And tax dollars should be going to public schools, not diverted to for-profit charter school management companies that care more about making money than educating children.

 
 

We also need to focus on post-secondary education. In order for Michigan to build talent and grow jobs in emerging economic areas, we must increase opportunities for post-secondary education, as Brookings Institute Fellow John Austin has noted.

Michigan has one of the highest populations of adults who don’t have post-secondary education. The days of graduating high school and getting a job on the auto line are long gone. But too many Lansing politicians haven’t adjusted to that reality. They’ve cut funding for public universities, even as tuition and other college expense soar. And they’ve also cut workforce training programs, which are vital for those who aren’t pursuing four-year degrees.    

So it’s no surprise that Michigan is failing to keep and develop talent. Many students can’t afford the cost of a college anymore. Those who graduate are often saddled with debt and leave the state for higher-paying jobs. Many leave because they want to live in cities that are diverse, welcoming and have a vibrant culture. If we had more cities in Michigan like Ann Arbor, more of our kids would stay here instead of leaving for Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

Michigan has to be able to compete. We have to be a state where young people want to live, work and raise their families. We have to be a state where job-seekers from across the country and across the world want to live.

 

MY PLAN

1. Invest in early childhood programs. Nurturing talent in Michigan starts with quality pre-K programs. The 0-5 years are critical for brain development and future success. We need to invest more in well-rounded early childhood programs for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Research shows that money spent on pre-K programs pays for itself many times over, as children are better prepared for their K-12 education and less likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

2. Increase funding for K-12 public schools. All children must have access to a high-quality education. Fewer dollars are going into our kids’ classrooms now and it shows. Classes are overcrowded, programs have been cut and teachers have been laid off, even in high-performing schools. We need to make sure that lower-income students and those with special needs get the support they need. Charter schools have exploded in Michigan in the last few decades and taxpayers are forced to spend $1 billion on them every year. But charters are not delivering for students and parents, as The New York Times noted in a recent report. We need stop funneling tax dollars into for-profit charter management companies and invest in our neighborhood schools.

 
 
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3. Invest in post-secondary education and training. We need to invest more in our world-class public universities, community colleges and workforce training programs. Education and skills training after high school are the key to Michigan keeping and attracting the talent to grow our economy. For too long, Michigan has not invested enough in our 15 public universities and that’s one reason why tuition has skyrocketed. We can’t afford to price kids out of a college education. I want to expand opportunities for high school students to earn post-secondary credits with Advanced Placement classes, vocational training and community college classes. This will save families money and kids will be better prepared for their futures. And we need to invest in skills training for adults changing careers so they’re prepared for in-demand jobs.

4. Hire more guidance counselors. Many schools across Michigan don’t have counselors because they can’t afford them. But students, especially teens and pre-teens, face many challenges and need more support in school. I support a grant program in the state K-12 budget so every middle school and high school has a guidance counselor. I also want to require a mental health curriculum in health classes, starting in fifth grade, when many kids start to get cell phones and social media pressures begin to build.

5. Use cutting-edge technology. All students should have access to online resources and talent development centers, but not all schools can afford the technology. We need to make that a priority in the state K-12 budget so our kids have the skills to compete in the 21st century economy. We also need to improve access to online resources for adults changing careers and needing job retraining.

6. Attract and retain more teachers of color. Research shows startling disparities between white children and children of color, particularly African-American boys, that transcend class. I support community programs like Black Men Read. One of my priorities is attracting and retaining teachers of color, especially African-American men, to Michigan schools. This will be instrumental in closing the achievement gap. This is needed in even the better-performing public schools such as Ann Arbor, where African-American kids continue to struggle far more than their white peers.