Former state Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Bill Schuette will face off in November in the race to become Michigan’s next governor.
The Associated Press called both races before 10 p.m. Tuesday as Whitmer coasted past two opponents in the Democratic primary and Schuette easily topped the four-candidate Republican field.
The winner of the general election on November 6 will likely have an enormous impact on education across the state in coming years.
The next governor, who will replace term-limited Republican Rick Snyder, could preside over school closings. He or she could influence how schools are funded and measured, and could make crucial decisions about whether to expand preschool or address the rising costs of higher education.
Before the primary, Chalkbeat joined with a team of reporters from the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to interview six of the seven major-party candidates on a range of topics. We published their answers to key education questions, along with videos of the candidates’ education responses.
Schuette declined to participate in those interviews but later sent written answers to the questions. Unlike other candidates, his answers were not subjected to follow up questions.
Scroll down to read Whitmer and Schutte’s responses, edited for clarity and length. A full transcript of Whitmer’s answers to all of the questions in the hourlong interview is here.
About the Candidates
Michigan spends $15 billion annually on K-12 education. That’s one-fourth of our state budget, dedicated to our schools. Yet, since 2003, other states have consistently outpaced Michigan on education outcomes. Sadly, our third grade reading scores – a critical indicator of future academic and life success – are among the lowest in the country. We are not adequately preparing our children, nor are we building the talented workforce needed for a thriving Michigan economy.
All of this must change. I have a plan to reverse the last 15 years of decline and set Michigan on a new course toward educational excellence. We need to open our minds to new ideas and creative solutions in order to maximize that $15 billion investment.
There’s no question that we have to measure to see what’s working and what’s not working. The standardized tests that our kids are taking and taking and taking aren’t being used to really make tweaks in the curriculum or in the teaching or in the investment in our schools. It’s being used as a tool of punishment.
The thought that you punish families by closing down the option that they have, that that’s going to somehow produce a better result is completely backward thinking. When you look at states that are turning around districts, they put more resources in. They don’t abandon families. They don’t make it harder for them to find education for their children.
It is. When I went to Michigan State University, the taxpayers I think picked up about 70% of the cost of my education. And it was on me and my family to come up with the rest. Now it’s just about flip-flopped. And we’ve had this mindset in the last 20 years that the only way to a career, an honorable career that you can make a good living in, is through a four-year degree. And so we’ve kind of pushed this mantra out there and stigmatized other paths and now we’re paying a price for it.
One of the pieces of my plan is the My Opportunities scholarship, which is a path to a debt-free, two-year degree for every Michigander. We can make that kind of investment toward bringing down the cost of a four-year degree and also opening up paths into the skilled trades. It’s actually not enormously expensive. It’s about $100 million a year. When you’ve got a $50 billion budget, $100 million is a small piece and I think we would find fantastic return on that kind of an investment.