Jennifer Granholm has held the office of Michigan’s attorney general since
1999. Previously, she served as an attorney for Wayne County and as a federal
prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office. She is running for governor of the
state of Michigan as the Democratic nominee.
If elected, Granholm would expand pre-school education to toddlers and create
state-sponsored parent-education programs, which would include state-run
parent-child playgroups, childrearing classes for parents, and possible home
visits by state officials. The Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state’s
largest school employees’ union, has endorsed her.
Granholm says she would grant more state funding for after-school and summer
school programs and reinstate programs recently cut from the state budget. For
example, she would like to expand Mentor Michigan, a student-tutoring program
founded by Granholm, Michigan First Lady Michelle Engler, and former Detroit
Pistons basketball star Isaiah Thomas. She has also proposed the establishment
of a Great Lakes Scholarship Program which would raise scholarship money for
Granholm’s definition of a “failing school” would be guided by an
accreditation plan much like the one advocated by state superintendent Tom
Watkins and approved earlier this year by the state board of education. The plan
relies not only on state achievement test scores, but on factors such as
attendance and graduation rates.
To handle failing public schools, she would send in state-sponsored
“Turnaround Teams” composed of state education professionals and specialists.
State funding would be withheld from the failing school and instead handled by
the Team, given to after-school programs, or offered for the transfer of
students, at their parents’ request, to different public schools. Under the
transfer program, the per-student funding for each child would then go to the
school the parents choose for their child, instead of going to the failing
school. The failing school would be required to create a recovery plan with the
assistance of the Turnaround Team.
Granholm favors the creation and funding of new teacher training and
development programs, and wants the state to pay the balance on student loans
for teachers who agree to teach in specified at-risk schools, or in subject
areas where there is a shortage of teachers. In addition to using state money,
Granholm would require local governments to fund part of her teacher mentoring
and training plans.
In response to complaints from school districts regarding deteriorating
infrastructure, Granholm says she would raise money for new school buildings,
building repairs and modernization through a new “bonding fund,” which would
provide loans for these purposes. She also wants to change Proposal A, the
Michigan school funding plan that transferred the bulk of funding from local
entities to the state and substantially lowered property taxes, so that school
districts may once again use local millages to increase property taxes for
schools. Granholm also says she believes all funding for special education
should come from the federal government.
Additionally, Granholm wants all Michigan high school students to fulfill a
community service requirement in order to graduate. She advocates changing
Michigan’s school dropout age from 16 to 18, which would rescind state
permission for students to leave school prior to graduation from high school and
would withhold driver’s licenses from truant students.
Though Granholm sends her own children to private school, she opposes school
choice options such as vouchers or education tax credits. She supports choice
among traditional public schools, but wants to increase regulations on charter
schools (public school academies), and believes no more charter schools should
be opened in the state. Currently, there is a cap of 150 university-sponsored
charter schools in the state.
A common criticism of Jennifer Gran-holm’s education plan is that it offers
no estimate of the level of funding that will be required for her many programs.
According to a recent Lansing State Journal editorial, she “doesn’t even attempt
to attach a dollar figure to any of her proposals, much less advise from where
that money would come.”
Her opponent, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, claiming he is the only “anti-tax
candidate” in the race, believes Granholm will support increased taxes, likely
through reforms to Proposal A and new programs.
Another criticism is that she has few new ideas. According to the Michigan
Information Research Service, seven of the 11 policies she has offered as her
plan for education have already been included in recent bills before the