8th Annual Education Summit

September 18, 2002

Thank you, and welcome. It’s hard to believe that this is the last education summit in which I will address you as governor.

What a ride the last dozen years have been – for you and for me – especially in education. The other day someone told me what Harry S. Truman said as his administration was winding down: "This administration" he said, "is going to be discussed – and cussed – for many years to come!"

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After 32 years in government, I’ve concluded that when there is no controversy; when there is no debate; when everyone is getting along swimmingly … not much is going on and no reform is taking place.

Whatever else you think of these past dozen years, they have been filled with controversy and debate. Nor has it been "sound and fury signifying nothing." There has been considerable reform and much to be proud of.

In many areas, Michigan is a model for the nation.

As just one example, I refer you to the recent column in The Washington Post that was devoted to Michigan education reform.

David Broder quoted no less than Lu Battaglieri as saying, "Proposal A … has fundamentally changed the way we fund education. It has raised the base and narrowed the gap, and a lot of good has come out of it."

Ladies and gentlemen:

I believe that Michigan children who attend public schools are learning more than they were 12 years ago – they are getting a better foundation for success.

It is a fact that test scores are going up.

I believe that Proposal A is one of the most important achievements of our generation.

It is a fact that Michigan schools are better funded than ever and more fairly funded than ever.

I believe that families are better off with the options, the choices that once were denied them.

It is a fact that they are voting with the feet and taking advantage of charter schools and public school choice.

I believe that our classroom teachers have more opportunities for professional development than a decade ago.

It is a fact that they now have the technological infrastructure and tools to take their teaching to the next level.

What I would like to do this afternoon is show you a snapshot of some of the most significant achievements of the past 12 years, and point to a few directions for further reform.

Let’s start with the dollars.

I. Funding

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Michigan public schools are fully funded.There is not one school in this state that cannot fulfill its mission because it doesn’t have the money.Since 1990, state and local funding for K-12 education has soared 84 percent – almost double the inflation rate [43 percent].

In our ’03 budget, K-12 spending will top $14.5 billion. That represents a 2.8 percent increase over ’02 spending.

Put the increase in context: There is a severe budget shortfall in virtually all of the states. About a dozen are cutting K-12 spending. But in Michigan we are providing for one of the largest school spending increases in America.

In fact, more than one-third of Michigan’s entire state budget is devoted to helping our children learn and succeed. More than one-third. In the ’04 budget, K-12 spending will go up to $14.7 billion – a 4.2 percent increase over ’02 spending. Virtually all other areas of the budget are tight, but our schools will have the dollars they need.

You – you – need to insist that administrators manage the funding well.

Also: since a gubernatorial election is just around the corner, you need to ask the candidates tough questions and compare where they stand.From what I’ve read to date, I am confused by the Democratic candidate’s position – or positions.She has been less than forthright about education spending and not concrete about what her spending priorities are.

II. Achievements

Now let’s look at some of our students’ achievements. At a time when we are making record investments in our schools, it’s great to see record results. Assessments in critical content areas show encouraging improvement.

  • In 2001 Michigan students placed first in the nation in math and science achievement in the internationally benchmarked by the Third International Math and Science Study [TIMSS].

  • Also in 2001, we noted with pride that Michigan fourth and eighth graders who took the math portion of the NAEP [National Assessment for Education Progress] test scored above the national average. In fact, only five states outscored our fourth graders, and only four states scored significantly higher than our eighth graders.

  • Michigan high schoolers, on average, do better than kids from other states on the ACT and SAT. We currently rank 12th nationally on the ACT; just a couple of years ago we were 16th.

  • What is even better news is that, on average, more students are taking the ACT than in years past.

  • While most recent ACT scores went down nationally [from 21.0 in 1998 to 20.8 in 2001], in Michigan scores held steady [at 21.3].

  • Since we met last year, Michigan has had more students taking AP courses, and a higher percentage of them are passing [66 percent in 2002; 64 percent in 2001].

  • All the while we are getting better results across the board on our state MEAP tests – from elementary and middle to high school students.

SES reported yesterday [in "Beyond the Averages: Michigan School Trends"] that in all regions of the state passing rates on the MEAP improved between 1997 and 2001.

Also, passing rates on the MEAP increased among every racial group during the five-year period, and low-income students made faster gains than their more affluent peers.

Standard & Poor’s has studied 5-years’ worth of MEAP scores and discovered 29 school districts that "beat the odds." In other words, these school districts have a higher than average number of students who are economically disadvantaged; but they also have a higher than average number of students taking the MEAP; and their scores – averaged – are higher than the state average. And, hey, these schools beat the odds without "tweaking" Proposal A.

Let me just mention three of these school districts around the state:

  • Mid Peninsula School District in Delta County in the UP had the greatest increase in MEAP scores over the past 5 years. The district’s MEAP passing rate went up by an average of 8.4 percentage points a year, from 41 percent in 1997 to 74 percent in 2001.

  • In the southwest part of the state, in New Buffalo Area School District, the average MEAP passing rate went from 41 to 62 percent over that same five-year period.

  • In southeast Michigan, kudos to Deckerville Community School District, which beat the odds four of the last five years.

Please join me in congratulating these and all 29 school districts that have beat the odds.

I must also mention our Michigan Merit Awards, especially since there is a ballot proposal that could severely threaten or diminish the opportunities they are opening up to our young people. In 2000 and 2001 combined, nearly 90,000 students received Merit Awards to pay for college or job training. In 2002, more than 50,000 students are receiving the award. I am urging the citizens of our state to support one of the best and largest state-based scholarship programs in America. Vote NO on Proposal 4 – the tobacco settlement proposal.

III. Reforms

With all the good funding news, with all the improved test scores, the question is: How did we get here? By reforms – reforms that have not always been easy to achieve. But all my reforms have been geared to increase choices and accountability.

Proposal A. Everybody would agree – certainly many national observers believe – that Proposal A was the reform of reforms, responsible for increased funding, greater equity, and more stability.

The Senate Fiscal Agency just published a study. They reported: In 1994-95, the gap between the richest and the poorest districts was $6,254. That year, the minimum per-pupil funding allowance was $4,200, while the highest spending districts spent $10,454 per pupil.

With the 2003-04 school year, the minimum per pupil allowance will be $6,700, while the highest paid district will be $11,954. That means the gap between the richest and poorest school districts will have been cut by $1,000 by the 2003-04 fiscal year.

Proposal A has totally changed the school finance landscape in this state.  There was once a time when school administrators were promoted because they could get a millage increase passed … not because they could help more kids read at grade level. Does anybody here really miss millage elections? Don’t think so.

Charter public schools. They are here to stay. Currently there are 190 charter public schools statewide, helping more than 64,000 students. Even as the Detroit Public School District is losing students, more students are attending charter schools in the city.

Maybe it’s because test scores are rising, which is especially good news considering they have some of the most at-risk children in Michigan public schools. The proportion of students in Michigan Charter Schools meeting state standards for reading and math has increased dramatically between 2000 and 2001. The average charter school saw test scores rise anywhere from 28 to 55 percent.

Schools of Choice. Another reform that’s here to stay: more than 33,000 students are now attending schools across town or in another district. Add up the students in charter schools and taking advantage of Schools of Choice, and you see that nearly 100,000 children are benefiting from our reforms.

Empowering parents with knowledge so that they can make informed choices. Standard & Poor’s powerful Website now gives Michigan the most powerful and objective accountability tool in the nation. It has five years of data – from 1997-2001 – so that anyone who wants can see the progress we are making on test scores, graduation rates, spending, and much more. 40 percent of all visitors to date have been parents.

CEPI has undertaken many exciting initiatives. I only have time to highlight one tool – the student record database to track students all the way through their school years.

No strikes. For many years, September was a season of strikes – they often dominated headlines. Now our teachers are in the classrooms teaching, and our children are learning.

No Child Left Behind. Because of our already rigorous MEAP tests, our state is well positioned to redesign the tests to meet new federal requirements.

Detroit school reform. Principals are part of management, not of the union.

IV. The Future?

I predicted that the Spartans would be 11 and 0 this season, so you have to take my forecasts with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, when it comes to education, I see several major trends that are here to stay:

1. We are trending toward more and better technology.

The track record to date is outstanding.Michigan Virtual High School is expanding choices for parents and students. Since MVU began offering online AP courses, 37 Michigan schools have offered AP courses for the first time.During the 2001-02 school year, 172 high schools participated in online AP courses provided by APEX – a 135 percent increase over the previous school year.

SCoPE. The Sample Curriculum and Plans for Education (SCoPE) Web site offers practical classroom support to all Michigan education professionals.  The site is unlike any other teacher resource now available on the Internet.

It provides a model K-12 local core curriculum with units of study clearly linked to Michigan's own content standards, benchmarks, and statewide assessments.

The site also provides teachers with detailed plans for teaching lessons in each unit of study comprising the model K-12 local core curriculum (English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies).

Better technology will also give schools the tools to track enrollment and attendance.Today schools can only tell us twice a year – and then six months late – what their enrollment numbers are. Well, if Walmart can track instantaneously how many tubes of Crest Toothpaste are entering and leaving its stores, we should be able to do the same regarding students.

Also, Michigan was the first state to equip classroom teachers with a laptop through our Teacher Technology Initiative. Over the past two years, more than 90,000 teachers have received a laptop. New MEAP tests will be quickly machine scored and posted. The Broadband Authority will make better use of technology possible.

2. We are trending toward more administrative consolidation.

The unions are right. We cannot afford all the services our schools are paying for. There’s too much bloat.

Every effort should be made to cut all non-classroom costs. More services should be provided on a collaborative basis. Cities and school districts should be consolidating, because it does not make sense to have, for example, two parallel crews of janitors and kitchen staff.

I say more schools and districts should be following the example of the MEA. According to published reports, the MEA at its headquarters in East Lansing has contracted out for food, janitorial, mail, and security services – and in three cases with nonunion labor.

3. Education will become more flexible and individually tailored to students.

It’s got to. There will be increasing pressure to make sure that 100 percent of our children can read.

Everything else can wait – should wait. We have many highly paid people in education who feel sorry for their plight. Well, I feel sorry for the kids.

To have 100 percent of our children reading will require more than a better use of technology; it will also require more flexibility in the curriculum. I see superintendents, principals, and teachers changing the very structure of schools; there has got to be enough flexibility in the curriculum so that every student learns to read.

V. Thanks

Since this is my last education address as governor, it is appropriate to thank some of the individuals who have helped make these path-breaking reforms possible: Doug Roberts and his team who worked on Proposal A back in ’93.Art Ellis. Mike Boulus. Andrew Henry.Nancy Danhoff.Mary Kay Shields.Jim Goenner. Bill Schmidt.Bill Cox and Jonathan Jacobson (S&P’s SES).Mark Murray. Jamey Fitzpatrick. Robbie Jameson. And many, many others.

Although time limits the number of people I can mention, there are no limits to my appreciation. I thank you all.

VI. Conclusion

I’d like to leave you with this thought. Yesterday was Constitution Day. Back in 1787, 215 years ago, our Founders signed the greatest charter of liberty ever penned. Something else happened in 1787, something that would also inform our Michigan Constitution.

1787 was the year the Continental Congress cast its most famous vote: to approve the Northwest Ordinance.

Section 14, Article 3, of that great document contains a sentence about education and that I have quoted a number of times as governor. It says: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

That line was preserved verbatim by the drafters of our Michigan Constitution of 1963; you can read it in Article 8, Section 1. Michigan’s governor and legislature are constitutionally obligated to encourage "schools and the means of education."

I believe history will show that during these 12 years my administration fulfilled the obligation to our citizens.

We did our best by our children. I am proud of that record.

I hope that you are, too, and that you jealously guard our achievements.