Hundreds of Michigan residents joined a telephone town hall with state lawmakers and raised concerns about public school funding and a range of local education challenges.
LANSING, Mich. —On Thursday evening, Michigan House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills; Representative Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield; and David Hecker, President of American Federation of Teachers Michigan joined a telephone town hall hosted by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) and the American Federation of Teachers Michigan. They discussed policies to create a strong public education system, make higher education and workforce training available to everyone, and explained how these issues impact the local economy. All three participants fielded questions from local residents for a full hour. The dial-out call reached over 2,244 Michiganders with a peak of 725 people on the line at a time.
“Education was the reason I ran for state representative in the first place. I have three sons that graduated from Farmington Public Schools. They had a great education, but I could tell between my second and third one that things were changing. I made it a priority to get involved in government and be a voice for parents and teachers, because it’s those great teachers that helped me as well as my three kids,” said Rep. Greig. “We want to make sure the representatives we have in Lansing are fighting for our future by making sure we have a great education system. We have the ideas to work off, we just need the will to do it in Lansing.”
Throughout the call, Reps. Greig and Moss talked about various elements of Michigan Democrat’s “TeA+chers for Michigan” plan to address education issues. The package of 22 bills, introduced in January 2018, addresses teacher recruitment, preparation, support, and retention. They also referenced the Michigan Education Finance Study commissioned by the legislature and released in 2018 that found that Michigan wasn’t meeting per-child public school funding needs.
“Futures are developed every day in Michigan classrooms throughout the state, but education in Michigan should not be a privilege based on your zip code, it should be a right no matter where you live,” said Rep. Moss. “We can’t populate our neighborhoods, we can’t grow our economy unless we have a world class education system that produces talent and is an attraction for other people outside of Michigan.”
A poll was taken of participants on the call and found that nearly 80 percent of those listening supported efforts to make community college tuition-free for at least two years. This week, House Democrats announced a plan, the HirED Opportunity Act, to provide debt-free community college to all Michigan residents who qualify.
On the call, residents, including a handful of current and retired teachers, posed questions on the following topics:
- How to restore technical training programs in middle and high schools for those who don’t attend college;
- How to equip teachers to teach special education and meet the needs of students with disabilities or mental health issues;
- How to ensure Michigan doesn’t fall behind other states on education;
- How to ensure public school teachers and other public employees have access to secure retirements and retiree health care plans;
- How internet and cyber-education programs impact public school funding;
- Creative approaches to teacher recruitment;
- Tuition-free community college, and
- The need for teacher student loan forgiveness.
SiX plans to hold additional telephone town hall events with lawmakers on health care costs and lifting wages in June. All events are open to the public and media are welcome.