On August 7, voters will narrow a field of four Republicans and three Democrats vying to become Michigan’s 49th governor. The Republicans in the race are Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, state Senator Patrick Colbeck and physician Jim Hines.
A lot of the focus on the Republican side seems to be on very early education. Brian Calley, for instance, wants to coordinate existing state services: health care, nutrition, day care, early childhood education services to help students make sure they’re in a good place when they finally get to that point when they’re going to school. Bill Schuette is really emphasizing reading. He’s got a “GROW” initiative, as he calls it; which is all about trying to get kids when they’re young, make sure they’re reading at a good level early on, which of course is a predictor of future success. That said, it’s also been an emphasis of the current governor, Republican Rick Snyder. We still haven’t seen huge gains in test scores, but that seems to be an emphasis.
And then, for the other two candidates: Patrick Colbeck and Jim Hines, repealing Common Core. They want to get rid of any type of top-down model to education. Patrick Colbeck is also big into these “education savings accounts.” He’s had legislation in the Michigan Senate to do something along those lines where people can put money into a tax-safe account that they can later spend on their child’s education. Jim Hines has also been talking about trying to tackle this idea of student debt and adult literacy.
What I see that’s really interesting on the Republican side is they really go to great lengths to avoid talking about spending more money on education. Where that seems to be a very common thing for Democrats, the Republicans in general are saying, “we don’t have to spend more money on education to improve it.”
Two points that I’m seeing emerging from two of the candidates – Senator Patrick Colbeck and Attorney General Bill Schuette -- Sen. Colbeck is getting some flak from the left for what’s perceived as his involvement in re-writing social studies curriculum. There’s a push right now to modify what school kids are taught. Also, AG Schuette has been involved in the lawsuit...in fact, it’s now being appealed. Some Detroit school kids had lost their case; they had advocated for a right to literacy and a federal judge said, “you don’t have a right to literacy,” that’s actually now being appealed.
And what I see too going off that is how Patrick Colbeck is really defining himself as the real conservative in this race and also talking about such issues as “campus free speech,” and that we shouldn’t have these schools where the right to talk about, say, a right-leaning speaker becomes infringed somehow. And when you look at Colbeck and then you look at Schuette and you look at Calley...you can see the spectrum on the political side of where they all stand, with Schuette and Calley being kind of more mainstream and Jim Hines kind of in the middle...and then you’ve got Colbeck on the far right.
With (Sen. Patrick) Colbeck, I’d just say it’s kind of a common theme in both these new social studies standards that he’s putting forth and the campus free speech that Kyle mentioned...he believes that educational institutions and curriculum have been slanted towards a left-leaning viewpoint. While he says he doesn’t favor top-down control, he wants to get in there and put his fingerprints on it and change that a little bit.
Do either of you care to speculate as to which two people we’ll be talking about left standing on August 8?
The polling would seem to indicate that Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer are going to be the nominees. But, I just kind of hold out there, because you never really know what the enthusiasm is like among the progressives across the state. Are they really going to show up en masse? Brian Calley is going to have to make up some ground in order to do something, and Patrick Colbeck seems to think he can win. He’s got some analytics that show that he’s going to win.
Kyle nailed it. I think the Republican side has been pretty consistent...Schuette with a decent lead. On the Democratic side, Abdul El-Sayed has this progressive energy behind him. He’s down in the polls right now, but he’s doing some interesting things, even trying to recruit out-of-state volunteers to come in and knock on doors for him, which is something you don’t really see in a Democratic gubernatorial primary. Maybe in a presidential election. But it’s unique; he’s trying to build on this national progressive momentum and perhaps score an upset. We’ll see.