By John Austin, guest commentary for Bridge Magazine
September 27, 2018
Back to school should be a joyous time for children and their families, but today in Michigan the excitement of a new school year combines with uncertainty about what our kids will experience inside the schoolhouse door. Once the envy of the nation, Michigan’s public education system is hurting, and so are our children. Michigan today ranks 35th in the nation in fourth-grade reading, 33rd in eighth-grade math. Our African-American fourth graders have the lowest reading scores in the country. Other states now claim leadership in education – states who once looked to Michigan for inspiration. The wheels have truly come off.
The next governor faces many challenges – from collapsing water mains to crumbling roads. Less visible but more damaging than yawning potholes are the diminished life chances and opportunities for Michigan’s schoolchildren. Tires can be replaced. There is no replacing years of lost learning.
Caring deeply about education and having spent a large part of my career working to make it better – including 16 years of service on the Michigan State Board of Education-—I am saddened to tears by the damage done to the life chances of so many Michigan young people. But I am determined that we call the question, now, of whether we will reverse course.