Opinion | Gov. Whitmer’s education plan will help Michigan schools like mine

David Simpson is principal of Northern Hills Middle School in Grand Rapids.

As a middle school principal in the Grand Rapids area, I see firsthand our students at a critical stage in their academic and social development. Middle school is a challenging time for any student, regardless where they live or attend school.

Complicating matters for our kids, our current school funding formula treats all students as if they have identical needs. This is a major disservice to all Michigan students at this very important juncture in their education.

Our broken school funding approach dates back a quarter century and continues to fail our students as they begin to prepare for the next phase of their lives, whether it’s college, technical school, apprenticeships or jobs right after they receive their diploma. This isn’t sustainable, and it’s time for a new game plan to serve the needs of all Michigan students, no matter their circumstances.

Following years of inaction on this issue in Lansing, I was encouraged by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s bold proposal to invest an additional $507 million in the state’s 2020 budget to help all students achieve and succeed. I proudly support Gov. Whitmer’s school funding plan, which would triple the state’s number of literacy coaches and create a weighted formula to improve classroom resources for:

  • Special education needs
  • Low-income and at-risk children
  • Career and Technical Education programs

The governor’s budget would also help local schools provide a high-quality education to all students by raising teacher pay, reducing class sizes and upgrading technology. If passed, her budget would make huge strides toward improving every classroom in every community across the state, providing every child the chance to succeed.

Our schools continue to struggle to meet student performance standards, and we have a unique opportunity to embrace a new, fairer approach that gives all students the same shot at getting a good education and competing for jobs.

Under the current school funding formula, our kids continue falling behind their peers in an increasingly competitive global economy that demands a skilled workforce more each day. That’s not fair to them or our state.

Michigan can no longer utilize the same, one-size-fits-all school funding method and expect different results. Gov. Whitmer’s budget provides a unique opportunity to get this right and give all students the tools they need to succeed in the real world.

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Kevin Grand
Wed, 05/15/2019 - 8:51pm

So, where do the parents factor into all of this?

Dumping truckloads of money into the schools won't affect anything when the parent(s?) don't place any emphasis on their child(rens) education.




Taking education money away from the children who DO show up and DO want to learn is no solution at all.

David Waymire
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 9:14am

For the last 20 years we have been reducing the share of education funding aimed at children who for reasons outside of their control are harder to educate than others. And for 20 years, we have been falling further and further behind other states, across the board. Data tells us the current ways are t working. And that successful states are spending more to help at risk kids. People who think spending more to help difficult learners hurts other children haven’t been in a classroom, where a single child in need of help they are not getting disrupts and prevents education of others.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 6:08pm

I notice when the talk is of money there is no description of the specific need of the individual student, it is always a board brush as if all students are on the verge of failure without more money.
Do you believe it is the student that does the learning or the teacher or the administrator?
If it is the student how will the added money help the students, will it make them desire more learning, will it make them study longer and more focused, will it make them sacrifice having fun with friends to go study, will it create a quiet place for them to study? How will the money help them?
If it is the teachers, will higher pay turn poor teachers into good teachers, or don't you believe their are any poor teachers, will it change how teachers present the information to the students, will it make teachers more sensitive to the individual needed or each student?
If it is the administrator, will it turn them into insightful manager of the system and staff that will creates a sudden change in the environment so all the students want to learn, will it make them more conscientious of how to get value from the money they spend?
I learned in the Michigan system and I need some clarity and specificity, how will the student be directly impacted and how will it improve their learning?
I am reading about the thousands of students being considered at or near full college ready and no one talks about why or how they are able to do that in the system you and the author suggests are failing because of lacking more money. For me to being willing to give more to the schools I need to help in reconciling how kids in the same school, same classroom, same neighborhood are succeeding and failing simply because there isn't enough money for the adults.
What will more money change that will make poor students perform as well as the successful students are now?
I apologize if I make you uncomfortable or seem to challenge you, but I ask you because I would truly like to hear a different perspective on my questions and I have no illusion that Mr. Simpson will answer any questions asked by readers.

Bob Dunn
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 9:32am

Kevin, I want you to think as education as in investment into the future. Like the stock market you can invest today and take it out tomorrow. Probably resulting in losing some portion of your money. The data shows if you leave your investment in the market and continue to invest in the long run your returns will be significant. Also, as you pick stocks some do better than others. Education is an investment into the future for our state and country. If we do not invest and continue to invest with our dividends we do not improve our investment as we have done in Michigan for the past number of years. Also, like the stocks we have to use the best research to improve our investment. The results are clear here as we have fallen toward the bottom in achievment in the country. We have a choice of making progress by reinvesting or going backwards. I support progress for the state and country.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 6:46pm

Why is there all of this talk of "cuts" when the state's own numbers do not back up that narrative.


Look, you two will need to do much better than that.

And to expect Michigan Taxpayers to simply just pony up even more money on such a specious argument only shows an incredible level of contempt for what they have worked to earn.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:14am


The only way I know you is by our angry and narrow minded comments. Once again, what has happened in your life to create such bitterness. We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are. Where do you need healing, Kevin?

Kevin Grand
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 6:54pm

Bernadette, is there any particular reason why you just cannot accept the fact that people disagree with you?

There is a name for people who want to do the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result.

Let be bottom line it for you: Funding IS NOT the problem here in Michigan (see link above).

When it is culturally acceptable for people to shun learning, no amount of additional funding will ever change that.

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 8:38am

"There is a name for people who want to do the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result."
I notice the same argument and the same view of the world every time you comment . I appreciate people who disagree with me and have truthful and valid information.

You live in an alternate reality than the folks you condemn. It may be helpful for you to spend some time volunteering and seeing what life is really like for these folks It also might be helpful to reflect on what your role has been in MI getting into this situation in the first place. We all needto do that.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/17/2019 - 11:36am

And you're basing this claim that I don't volunteer any of my free time on?

Has the idea of what Ive seen in my travels affecting my viewpoint ever crossed your mind?

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 8:40am

I never claimed you did not volunteer. I suggested you may want to volunteer in this area. I am not sure what "travels" you have done and am not sure how this is germane to this point.

Kevin Grand
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 7:13am

It's called viewing something from another perspective first-hand, not filtered through the media.

Other parts of Michigan, along with other states, have many of the problems Principal Simpson is lamenting about.

They don't advocate dragging others down to address those problems. They work with what they have.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 7:20pm

Kids that often don't do well in school can do well when given a good educational environment. The results of a study done by Stanford University bears this out. In that study kids from Chicago Public Schools that were schooled across five grades (3-8), actually gained six full grades when tested. Considering all schools in Michigan, not many achieved that level of success. The researchers at Stanford ruled out demographic changes, etc. as a reason for these urban kids doing so well. It can be done.
Anyway, those kids at the bottom of the economic ladder deserve as much effort on behalf of the public to educate them as do the well off, with all of their advantages. Pay now or pay later.
Your comment about parents is spot on though. The Michigan Department of Education, at one time, stated on their website that, "The most reliable predictor of success in school is the degree to which parents involve themselves in their child's education."
But, at base,an appropriate amount of money has to be provided to educate our kids.
I agree wholeheartedly with the author of this piece.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:43am

Any plan to help the schools will never pass the republican controlled house and senate, Repulicans KNOW that educated people will never vote for them!!!

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:51am

Don, demonizing a group you don't like helps nothing. Republicans / Conservatives WANT educated people. It's the current Public Education Industry that Republicans / Conservatives don't like. Schools have had more money sent to them for decades with no improvement in outcomes. Republicans / Conservatives want the system changed to benefit all children, parents and society.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 2:18pm

Is that why they defund education at every instance, push psuedoscience in their standards and textbooks, demonize teachers, and push for privatization?

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 2:45pm

So you're happy with schools outcomes?

Gary Lea
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 9:58am

I agree with this article's author and believe that Michigan's school districts can/will benefit.

Jim Pearson
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:25am

As a veteran of nearly 50 years of service in Michigan public schools, I would say Principal Simpson is spot on in his assessment of our state school funding system. It is time to fund our schools on the basis of science not politics. Governor Whitmer's education plan is a great step in the right direction.

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:37am

With all of your experience, please educate me on the flaws in my thinking. I believe that it is the student that does the learning, that they have a role with responsibilities in their learning process, that a teacher can do more than what the student will accept, where is my flaw?
It seems there is a learning process, it is driven by the student's desire to learn/not, it start with the initial presentation of the information to be learned, that is followed by the description and relevance [application] of the information to the student, the student applies [does homework] the information [the learning phase], the student continues to apply the information which fixes it in the mind of the student. The testing value is as a means for assessing the level of learning and stage in the learning process. Test results should be use to help the student focus their efforts and how the teacher can support the student.
Since I use this as foundation of how I look at the issue of education, both in the schools and with students. What have I got wrong, what should I be adding and/or modifying and what should I simply delete? If possible please include a bit of your reasoning so I can use that as a path to applying what you are recommending.
Thank you for any thoughts and advice you provide.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:28am

Michigan schools need more competition.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:52am

I agree.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 2:20pm

We've had 25 years of school choice. All its done is make private investors in charter schools wealthier, while starving public schools of funding. Hard pass

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:28pm

Michigan teachers are already some of the highest paid in the nation while most residents wages have stagnated. Property taxes are driving retirees and working people into debt and forcing the loss of their homes. The Governor and her educational supporters should first pass a progressive income tax to pay for schools as many states do. At the same time, nonunion child care workers and substitute teachers are grossly underpaid. The median wage for a Grand Rapids Public School teacher is higher than the American median household income. If the key to good teaching was simply higher wages, then it's not the vocation it was thought to be.

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 8:33am

You have got to be kidding. One reader said teachers in many schools make too much money. Ya right $ 33000 DOLLARS FOR A STARTING TEACHER IS TOO MUCH. Why doesn't that reader go back to school and get in on that gravy train. Peace R.L.