GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The president of Grand Valley State University says one of the reasons Michigan is trailing in many areas of educational performance is because of its priorities.
“We had 20 years ago, 25 years ago, one of the best systems of education in the nation and we have now really drifted behind,” said Dr. Thomas Haas.
But if he and the 21st Century Education Commission have anything to say about it, that drifting will end soon.
Gov. Rick Snyder created the commission more than a year ago to examine Michigan’s state of education. Haas leads the group, which is comprised of education professionals, K-12 specialists, union leaders and charter school representatives.
On March 10, the commission delivered its sweeping recommendations — 32 in all — which focused on enhancing teacher preparation, making post-secondary learning more accessible, restructuring the state department of education, and getting parents and communities more involved in their schools.
The commission suggested making community college and preschool free for everyone. It also advised the state it should eliminate grade levels and focus moving children up based on when they master a skill, which is more crucial for a career.
“Those jobs are defined by skill sets and competencies. Why not define and align our school system with what is needed in the 21st century?” Asked Haas.
Haas said he and the commission are optimistic the recommendations will lead to changes in Michigan’s education system, despite how daunting a task it may be in Lansing.
“Yes, I understand everything is political when we use state dollars, but the investments that we are going to make are going to be so important for the state to rise up from where it is right now — almost last. And if we don’t, we’re going to stay right here,” added Haas.
He said Snyder has already started to place holders in his budget request to begin to meet some of those recommendations.