In the last few years, under the current governorship and a recovering Michigan economy, education has been slipping. Even as our state increased funding, state standardized test scores show a gross drop in performance across the entire school age population of our state. Under current circumstances, a rational person can only conclude: something in education is broken and it's time to figure out where and how to fix it.
As such, I support the following proposals: All Year School, Temporary Moratorium on Standardized Testing, Ending Homework, Feeless Breakfast & Lunch, & Reformulating School Funding.
All Year School
There are various reasons why expanding the school year to full year is a sensible proposal. Given that it’s now common for the majority of households now employing both parents as breadwinners; the cost of daycare has risen often driving a parent out of the workforce. With multiple children, this problem becomes even more difficult to manage, and the need for sensible solutions becomes more necessary. In addition; extra time in the school year would help teachers provide extra time on the curriculum, allowing each student the capacity to better absorb the material.
With an expanded school year and resulting extra instructional time, we would undoubtedly see improvements in our school system performance scores. There is one final advantage to expanding the school year; retained knowledge between grade levels would be increased, due to less time off between grade advancements.
Due to the previous argument of adding time to teach the curriculum, it would also be sensible to apply a moratorium on standardized testing (at least temporarily). My reasons for this are: returning the portion of the school year lost to preparing for a test back to the core curriculum; reducing and eliminating unnecessary test anxiety; & eliminating wasted state education dollars (it's a waste to learn performance results on a yearly basis, we could save tax dollars by testing every few years instead).
I support the idea of ending homework as a core curriculum requirement, because I believe in the value of home life & the social and emotional development which is supposed to occur there. In addition; it has been discovered that extra homework does little to nothing in improving our children's understanding of the curriculum being studied. So I propose we adopt this reform to our school curriculum, eliminate homework and give that time back to our children, in order to promote their bonds with their families, and develop the social interaction skills during that time which will carry them through adulthood.
It's becoming increasingly common for families to be struggling financially, so it’s also more common that lunches are subsidized or free to many students. So, in an effort to alleviate stress and promote learning at equal footing, I support the idea of breakfast and lunch being included in the cost to educate our children, thereby eliminating the breakfast/lunchline fee.
As a state senator, I propose we reform the way Michigan schools are allocated funds. It is sensible, that all schools are allocated funds based on their verifiable needs. In many school districts, those needs are smaller class sizes, which means those districts need increased funding so they can hire more professionals and revitalize/expand their existing infrastructures. In other districts: those needs might be adequate supplies, and/or updated books, and/or repaired HVAC systems.
In every system; there will always be inefficiencies and it is important to discover those wastes and remedy those excessive costs. However, we must never become so obsessed with looking for wastes, that the effort used to discover those wastes, wastes future opportunities. With that in mind; as a state senator, I will fight to revitalize our school system by restoring school funding formulas, reforming the wasteful standardized testing schemes, and restore time & smaller class sizes to our schools. It's time Michigan fully funded our schools again.
Mark Bignell is an alumni of Montcalm Community College and Grand Valley State University. He is a former Democratic Nominee for Michigan State Senate and current candidate.