By David Eggert, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) – Michigan should make community college free for all and give merit-based scholarships to high school graduates who attend the state’s public universities, a commission formed by Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday in a report that also recommends abolishing grade levels and instead advancing students only once they master content.
The study recommends universal access to preschool for all 4-year-olds — not just disadvantaged and poor ones — and state aid to help pay for school buildings in low-income districts and those used by publicly funded charter schools.
Another key recommendation proposes seeking a 2018 constitutional amendment to give the governor more sway over education policy by having direct oversight of the state Education Department. The governor’s K-12 powers are currently limited outside of funding decisions.
The panel says it could cost nearly $2.5 billion more annually to implement every recommendation. And that may be a conservative estimate.
But the 25-member commission, which Snyder created last March and whose members were named in May, said lawmakers and the governor must confront bleak realities in Michigan’s education system.
Fourth-graders rank 41st nationally in reading, and the state is one of just three to see a decline in reading achievement since 2003. Eighth-graders rank 37th in math.
Michigan is 42nd in state aid for community colleges and universities and had the fifth-largest decline over the past five years. It has the fourth-highest tuition levels.
Per-pupil, K-12 spending is middle of the pack at 24th, but was 8th-highest as recently as 2000. When adjusted for inflation and increasing retirement costs, per-student funding for operations was 12 percent lower in 2015 than a decade earlier.
“Declining resources relative to other states is a likely cause of Michigan’s recent poor performance relative to other states,” the report said.
Snyder and members of the panel planned to discuss the findings at a news conference Friday in Detroit.
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