With Just Five Weeks to Go Until Election Day, Governor Whitmer and Tudor Dixon’s “Diverging Visions” on Public Education Could Not be More Stark

As Michiganders weigh their options with absentee ballots in hand and just 35 days until Election Day, it’s clear that public education is one of the many issues on which Governor Whitmer and DeVos sellout Tudor Dixon have “diverging visions,” according to recent reporting from Detroit News.

Governor Whitmer has made “historic progress” that will impact Michigan’s workforce competitiveness for generations to come. The piece notes that Whitmer’s commitment to prioritize “K-12 education and expanded early learning” resulted in a budget that “increase[d] per-pupil funding for public schools to $9,150, the highest number in state history and up $450 from the previous year.” 

These massive investments have already yielded results across the “majority” of school districts. This year’s statewide test scores “showed improvement” compared to 2021.

Meanwhile, Tudor Dixon – who “has been attempting to make her plans to overhaul education policies the centerpiece of her bid” – wants to upend these outcomes by any means necessary.

A lockstep extension and financial beneficiary of the DeVos family’s crusade to gut public education, Dixon has repeatedly “advocat[ed] for changing the state Constitution” to implement a voucher-type system that would violate the constitution’s current ban on “providing payments, credits or subsidies to nonpublic schools ‘to support the attendance of any student.’

See excerpts below from Detroit News on how Dixon’s anti-education agenda would dismantle Michigan’s public education system and read the full report here.

Detroit News: Whitmer, Dixon Present Voters with Diverging Visions for Michigan’s Schools

By Craig Mauger

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign says “historic progress” has been made toward improving K-12 education over her first term in office, but Republican challenger Tudor Dixon contends the state’s schools have “lost their way.”

As absentee ballots became available Thursday across Michigan, 40 days before Election Day, Dixon has been attempting to make her plans to overhaul education policies the centerpiece of her bid to unseat Whitmer.

While polls have shown many voters this year are focused on issues such as abortion and the economy, Dixon’s campaign could hinge on her success or failure at putting schools in the spotlight. Whitmer has a significant fundraising advantage over Dixon and has been using the money to tout her record on education. Whitmer won her first term by 9 percentage points in 2018.

The GOP nominee is advocating for changing the state Constitution to make the state superintendent accountable to the governor, allowing funding to follow students to private schools and giving parents greater influence over curriculum.

“We believe schools need to get back to the basics of teaching kids how to write, read and do math,” Dixon said at a Tuesday press conference outside the Capitol building. “Michigan’s education system is failing too many kids on those core tasks.” […]

Whitmer and her supporters have pointed to their own statistics: record spending in K-12 education and expanded early learning. The new Michigan budget, which Whitmer signed in July, increases per-pupil funding for public schools to $9,150, the highest number in state history and up $450 from the previous year. […]

Whitmer’s supporters have accused Dixon of trumpeting the policies of former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a Republican donor from west Michigan who’s been helping to finance Dixon’s bid for governor. The governor is backed by the state’s teachers unions, the Michigan Education Association and AFT-Michigan. […]

The Detroit News asked the campaigns of both Dixon and Whitmer about their plans for improving education in the state, which has nearly 900 traditional public school districts and charter school academies.

Whitmer’s team focused heavily on what the governor has done over her first term in office, highlighting Sept. 1 findings from the Michigan Department of Education, which said a majority of Michigan school districts showed improvement in their spring 2022 statewide test results over the previous year’s results.

In the same announcement, Michigan state Superintendent Michael Rice credited Whitmer and the GOP-controlled Legislature with negotiating a budget that “will help Michigan students and schools improve at this challenging time.”

Whitmer has worked to expand funding for before-school and after-school learning programs and secured money for tuition assistance for future educators, according to her campaign. She has tripled the number of reading coaches and delivered millions of dollars to support students with one-on-one assistance, according to her campaign. […]

Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon has promoted returning schools to “the basics” of teaching math and reading as a way of improving Michigan’s K-12 academic performance.

In a statement, Dixon said “years of schooling” had been stolen from students in Michigan under Whitmer’s leadership.

Dixon’s campaign said if elected, she would distribute “tutoring certificates,” funding 25 hours of one-on-one or small group tutoring in reading and math for every Michigan student. She would also require districts to put all curriculum and teaching materials online for parents to see and ban school personnel from talking to kindergarten through third-grade children about “sex and gender theory” behind parents’ backs.

The latter policy would be modeled after a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Dixon said. Critics have named that standard “Don’t Say Gay.”

“Parents deserve to know what their child’s school is focused on and that that’s the right stuff,” Dixon said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Whitmer’s chief operating officer Tricia Foster sent a letter to Rice earlier this month encouraging him to “continue bringing parents’ perspectives” into his work. And on Sept. 19, Whitmer announced the members of a “Michigan Parents’ Council,” an advisory group she established. […]

Dixon has also advanced more sweeping changes to Michigan’s education system, which would require altering the state’s Constitution. She has argued the state’s superintendent, who helps set school policy, should answer directly to the governor. Currently, that person is hired by an elected State Board of Education, which is tasked with supervising public education. […]

Dixon called for the resignation of Rice on Sept. 20, contending a state training session on working with LGBTQ students promoted hiding information from parents.

Tom McMillin, one of two Republican members of the State Board of Education, said he agreed with the frustration Dixon had with Rice, but McMillin said he was against having the superintendent answer directly to the governor because it would centralize additional power with the governor.

Dixon’s campaign website promotes instituting “education savings accounts” that would allow families to use the state’s per-pupil funding amount on “public, private, charter, virtual or homeschooling options.‍”

The Michigan Constitution currently bans providing payments, credits or subsidies to nonpublic schools “to support the attendance of any student.” But DeVos, who served as education secretary under former President Donald Trump, has long championed the idea of allowing money to follow students to schools they want to attend.

The DeVos family endorsed Dixon’s bid for governor in May. DeVos family members have given $1 million to Michigan Families United, a super political action committee (PAC) that’s been helping Dixon, according to campaign finance disclosures.

In TV ads, the Democratic Governors Association has accused Dixon of being “all in” on DeVos plans. Likewise, Dixon’s proposals for schools appeared to reflect DeVos’s ideas, argued Polehanki, the Democratic lawmaker. […]

Asked about DeVos influence during an interview on WOOD-TV’s “To The Point,” Dixon said she agrees “with educational freedom,” something, she said, DeVos has worked for during her entire career.

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