Friday, March 26, 2010

Gov. Granholm Falls Short on Educational Metrics in Her State of the State Address

As promised to other urban conservatives across the state who listened to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's State of the State address we are looking at how education will tie into Michigan's urban infrastructure for the next 10-20 years. Granholm talked about education and I do agree with her that it is a pressing issue for our residents in our state. However, I did not hear any specifics on how education can be used as a tool for urban redevelopment.

Let me give you an example. We stress a lot about technical jobs here in Michigan. However, we do not stress about urban and regional planning. When you look at the racial makeup of urban and regional planning positions most of them are White and they are planning for urban redevelopment in predominately Black areas. Now, I am not saying this in terms of a conspiracy theory (the White folks are taking over Detroit crap) but you cannot rebuild an infrastructure of a city without a balance of ideas and skill sets that include the people that live there. They know the landscape better than those who just graduated with their degrees in urban and regional planning and have never lived in any urban area in Michigan. It's easy for urban people to invest in education but they too should be part of the growing process in the very city where they pay taxes. In order to do this people in the inner city MUST have the motivation and drive to do this without anyone holding their hand.

Now maybe its not Gov.Granholm's job to stress the need for more urban planners to help develop new centers such as Muskegon and Benton Harbor but it is our responsibility to promote new job ideas and growth as well. Urban conservatives must take the lead on this.

Education is the #1 issue in Michigan and the United States. Gov. Granholm and the Michigan Legislature must put aside their petty differences and begin discussing the development of an educational empowerment zone. This zone can help benefit Michigan's major cities as part of a strategy to re-establish the competitive advantage of the inner city. A combination of traditional, charter schools, and an expanded education voucher available to low-wealth families, these zones could lead revitalizing efforts by enticing middle-income families with children back into the inner city.

For example, the City of Flint can be used as a general framework and assess the potential
impacts of implementing educational empowerment zones. Transforming a city like Flint into an educational empowerment zone would improve the prospects for revitalization in several ways.

Specifically, the zone could:

a) Create high-quality education opportunities for all Flint children.

b) Add 7,000 children to Flint’s private schools.

c) Free local tax dollars to increase per pupil spending in conventional public schools.

d) Result in more kids attending small schools that improve student learning.

Increasing the availability of high-quality education opportunities in Flint's increases the attractiveness of living in Flint. Expanding Flint’s educational choice program is likely to:

a) Move nearly 10,000 working-and-middle class families to the city.

b) Integrate Flint economically as the number of working-and-middle-class families living in Flint grows.

c) Stabilize neighborhoods as families can access better schools without moving.

d) Increase housing values as more families build new homes or renovate older housing in the city.

Education ties in with urban redevelopment because when people purchase a more expensive home in a urban community, however, they are not only purchasing a home, but they are also purchasing the government services that go with that home. As residents’ incomes rise they not only want more housing, they want better government services. For many home shoppers, the number-one government service they care about is the quality of the local public schools.

This is important because Gov. Granholm has not been able to stop the brain drain even with the bells and whistles of the Promise scholarship.

We, as urban conservatives, should not fret because the Promise Scholarships were cut. This is where we need to learn how to convert our consumer dollars into productivity. The urban community generates more income than most, however, our dollars are used in the least productive manner. We owe our children a good education and we should not always rely on state government to bail us out. Instead, we should develop public-private partnership and allow government to become our partners instead of our parents. These public-private partnerships can provide these Promise Scholarships for our children instead of relying on state government and allowing these scholarships become a target of political nonsense.

An smaller educational empowerment zone that we can duplicate here in urban areas in Michigan is one similar to the Harlem Children's Zone. This zone targets poverty-stricken children and families living in Harlem, providing free support for the children and families in the form of parenting workshops, a pre-school program, three public charter schools, and child-oriented health programs for thousands of children and families.

If Michigan is serious about transforming the direction of education and eradicating intergenerational poverty then we need to establish some serious fundamentals to make K-16 education competitive.

This includes building learning partnerships between businesses and schools to develop in-demand job skills and talents, expanding mentoring and internship opportunities as well as emphasizing opportunities and training for college-bound and non college-bound students.

We would also encourage businesses to partner with school districts to develop an entrepreneurial curriculum to show students that they are not just coming to school to work for someone else but eventually become their own vision through entrepreneurship.

Building an educational empowerment zone also includes treating the arts and culture as both educational and economic development assets. This will lead to improving core infrastructure as well as linking university research and development with entrepreneurs.

We have to engage our citizens by making them feel that they can be agents of change in their communities and regions.

To best attract and retain job providers and talent, Michigan must invest in and protect those assets which differentiate it from other places—our quality of life, work ethic and pioneering history, business innovation and technology, education and health systems, natural resources, urban centers, and the diversity of our people and communities.

Unfortunately, Gov. Granholm fell short on educational metrics tonight in her message. However, out of the GOP candidates who are running for Governor only Attorney General Mike Cox gives a detail of his urban and educational plan (even though his team should expand his urban plan). GOP candidate Rick Synder gives a "white paper" on his plan for education. I would like to hear further hear both Cox and Synder discuss how education can connect with urban redevelopment in a 21st century framework. Cox is open about lifting the cap off charter schools while Synder has not taken a position on the issue.

Meanwhile, Congressman Hokstra and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard do not have a plan for education or urban redevelopment. State Senator Tom George is pushing his redevelopment authority as a part of his educational connection to urban redevelopment in places like Detroit.

Urban conservatives are not going to just support a candidate because of party affiliation. We are serious about our platforms, our policy positions and want results not the same old 30 year talking points to help revitalize urban areas in Michigan.

Maybe its time to run urban conservatives for office in Michigan. Let's recruit some to actually FIX Michigan.

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