Whitmer says roads, education in crisis; touts tuition plan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday identified two major crises facing Michigan — aging infrastructure and a lagging education system — while promising to soon propose a "real solution" to fix the roads and touting a tuition-free plan that would help high school graduates attend college or get vocational training.

The Democrat, in her first State of the State address, said she did not run to "manage the decline of our state" but rather to make sure it "is one where our kids stay and families thrive."

Whitmer announced a goal of increasing the number of residents with a postsecondary credential — an industry certificate, associate degree or higher — to 60 percent by 2030, from 44 percent as of 2016.

She also proposed that the state provide graduating high schoolers two years of tuition-free education at a community college — with no means testing — or a two-year maximum $2,500 annual scholarship to those attending a four-year college or university. The latter would only qualify with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a household income under $80,000. Adults 25 and older also could receive financial support.

"It will make Michigan the first Midwestern state to guarantee community college for all," Whitmer said during a 55-minute televised speech before the Republican-led Legislature.

She focused on the state of K-12 education, as well, saying Michigan had the worst decline in childhood literacy among states measured every year since 2014.

"Let's be clear: This is not happening because Michigan kids are less talented," she said. "It's not happening because our kids are less motivated. It's not happening because our educators are less dedicated. It is happening because generations of leadership have failed them."

The education crisis, Whitmer said, hurts companies that cannot fill their jobs with in-state workers who have the proper training. She said vast majority of jobs require some form of postsecondary education, whether it's a degree or a skills certification. But only 44 percent of the workforce has such a credential.

"Simply put, that's not good enough for Michigan to compete," Whitmer said.

Detailed proposals will likely wait until she proposes her initial budget to lawmakers in March.

Of the roads, Whitmer said just 18 percent are in "good" condition.

"We need to act now, before a catastrophe strikes or the situation becomes truly unrecoverable," she said.

A state commission has said Michigan lags nearby states and the country in infrastructure spending and needs $4 billion more annually, including $2.2 billion for roads and bridges. In her campaign, Whitmer called for additional "user fees" such as fuel taxes or asking voters to approve a bond if the Legislature does not ask.

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  • C

    Throwing money at post secondary education is often a waste of taxpayers’ money, because the K-12 systems often graduate students who are incapable of, or unwilling, to do the work. For too long, both the home and schools have accepted and sometimes rewarded mediocrity, and we see the results around us every day. And as far as the damn roads go, hold on to your wallets. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tax on gasoline is going to go from being one of the highest in the country to being number one.

    • brina c

      Half of all state spending is already dedicated to education. To think that spending more is going to result in a better outcome is delusional. We have some of the highest paid teacher in the country and the lowest performing students. BTW, didn’t we raise the sales tax already to fix the damn roads? Time to say good bye to MI.

  • SoSad

    Talking out both sides of her mouth again. Our children are not doing well not because “Michigan kids are less talented,” she said. “It’s not happening because our kids are less motivated. It’s not happening because our educators are less dedicated.” So, those leaders sitting in Lansing (not in the classrooms or homes) are to blame. Everything is government’s fault. Hmmm, then why is there so many good jobs that can’t be filled by those same young adults when they finish school or don’t bother to finish? Typical demagoguery

  • Matthew

    Obviously she doesn’t understand economics. Guess who’s money gets stolen, their education watered down and what will make college education costs to rise faster and further?
    Like a true socialist she’s going to turn Michigan into Venezuela.

  • Joe

    Actually, the governor’s numbers are wrong. Only 17% of Michigan adults have a Bachelor’s Degree https://www.statista.com/statistics/588922/educational-attainment-michigan (Statista, 2018.) Of that 17% who knows how many are earning a STEM degree could be as little as 4%. The problem with educational attainment is not an affordability issue. For example, during Gramhol’s tenure she enacted the No Worker Left Behind program. This program paid up to an Associate’s degree for free at any higher-ed institution. However, the program was a failure as only 5% of recipients actually graduated. So, obviously we have actually been here before. Thus, the answer is not more funding. We are already financing higher-ed through student loans and yet the 4 years schools graduation rate is only 30-38% and for community colleges is 20% in some states. Thus again funding is not the issue here. The issue here is that our 12k system is broken. So when these kids go to college they are confronted with high level courses and can’t keep up during their first two years. Also, as they approach the higher level courses the programs get very very intense. Kids nowadays are not prepared. They are also not motivated with all the social media, video games, concert etc. This is a societal problem and not a funding one.

  • Fish

    Sounds like a true Democrat, free free free free free. How do you pay teachers/professors with free? Tax payers thats how. Rise your taxes for free education and expect people not to leave the state………or teach kids early on that life is what YOU make it not sitting around waiting on a hand out, but thats not the dems way of thinking

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