P20 education is top priority

September 16, 2012
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More than 600 individuals representing communities from across the state attending the West Michigan Policy Forum heard extensive discussion on almost a dozen issues but brought the To Do List down to five — and education initiatives were two of those five.

Gov. Rick Snyder closed the conference with a keynote speech, much of which focused on education and a new initiative of his own.

While some WMPF leaders expressed disappointment that West Michigan representatives were apparently outvoted in continued efforts for Right To Work and personal property tax repeal initiatives, the Business Journal finds the final list of five fundamental to the mission of clearing the way (or paving it) for continued business growth. Those five action items were:

  • Build a new International Trade Crossing and new freight tunnel from Michigan to Canada.

  • Improve transportation infrastructure by creating policies that maximize federal matching funds.

  • Develop common K-12 and higher education metrics that prepare Michigan for future work force needs.

  • Dedicate funds for early childhood development in the state budget.

  • Support policies that enable local government consolidation.

Undoubtedly, the out-state forum attendees were pleased to make the tunnel an initiative in West Michigan, matching it to a similar action issue established by the Detroit policy conference this summer, which likely gives the perception of statewide endorsement.

Snyder’s announcements, however, not only empowered the WMPF business agenda, but strengthened the education initiatives with the power of the governor’s plans for 2013.

Snyder began with a push for private sector involvement in the issue of talent attraction to Michigan saying, “(This) needs more attention; it’s the topic of talent. Government’s role in this is collaboration … getting the private sector involved.”

He then moved to education and pronounced it to be an issue of “P-20” not K-12. “P,” he said, was prenatal (not preschool) and the aim is “lifelong learning.” Snyder noted the Grand Rapids business leaders’ initiative to create Talent 2025, saying, “We are going to get this done,” while encouraging similar initiatives across the state.

Snyder said he is already planning to convene an economic summit on education next spring, preceded by regional meetings and breakouts across the state beginning in February or March. “And we’re going to get this done … within dog years to make it happen.”

“Let’s tell our kids we cleaned up this mess. That’s exciting,” Snyder proclaimed.

The Business Journal suggests that since business leaders, especially in West Michigan, have prioritized such efforts, Snyder’s message must get through to the state legislators. There, too, is the “connection.”

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