During her first State of the State address, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer took past lawmakers to task for underfunding public education and touted a tuition-free plan that would help high school graduates attend college or get vocational training.
Here are excerpts from Tuesday night's address when she specifically addressed education:
Today, third graders in Michigan rank in the bottom ten in the country in reading. The bottom ten. Since 2014, among states measured every year, Michigan has experienced the worst decline in childhood literacy. And the decline has been consistent across every racial and economic group in our state. Let’s be clear: This is not happening because Michigan kids are less talented. It’s not happening because our kids are less motivated. It’s not happening because our educators are less dedicated. It is happening because generations of leadership have failed them.
Right now, Michigan is one of only 9 states in the country and the only state in the Midwest that hasn’t even established a formal goal for post-secondary attainment. That changes tonight. I am announcing a new statewide goal of increasing the number of Michiganders between the ages of 16 and 64 with a post-secondary credential to 60 percent by 2030.
I’m announcing three paths for workers and students across our state. The first is for Michiganders who have already started their careers. As workplaces evolve, many people will need to acquire new skills to advance—or even just to keep the jobs they have now. There are also displaced workers across the state who are looking for new opportunities. That’s why we are launching: Michigan Reconnect. By training adults seeking an in-demand industry certification or associate degree, Reconnect is a path for working Michiganders to up-skill. It will also connect Michigan businesses to qualified candidates for the growing number of jobs that are currently unfilled.
The second path is for graduating high school students who want to continue their education, but who decide that a four-year college or university isn’t for them. A four-year degree isn’t for everyone, but everyone needs skills to get a good job. For them: the MI Opportunity Scholarship, will guarantee two years of debt-free community college for all graduating high school students who qualify. The scholarship will be officially launched this spring and available to students in the fall of 2020. And it will make Michigan the first Midwestern state to guarantee community college for all.
The third path is for graduating high school seniors who are . . .as my friends in the trades like to say, “just not skilled trades material.” I’m talking about a path for students who do want to pursue a four-year degree, but who can’t afford to do so. A study last year found the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at a public four-year school in Michigan is almost $22,000 a year. That’s the 10th highest in the country. And it’s a complete barrier for a lot of people in our state. That’s why the MI Opportunity Scholarship will provide two years of tuition assistance at a four-year, not-forprofit college or university for students who graduate from a Michigan high school with at least a B average. Real Paths. Real Opportunity. Together, these paths will go a long way toward closing the skills gap, making Michigan’s economy more competitive, and creating real opportunity for everyone.