Snyder’s panel calls for free preschool, community college

By DAVID EGGERT

Associated Press

LANSING — Michigan should make community college free for everyone and give merit-based scholarships to high school graduates who attend the state’s public universities, a commission formed by Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday in a report that also recommends abolishing grade levels and instead advancing students only once they master content.

The study recommends universal access to preschool for all 4-year-olds — not just disadvantaged and lower-income ones — and state aid to help pay for school buildings in higher-poverty districts and those used by publicly funded charter schools.

Another key recommendation proposes seeking a 2018 constitutional amendment to give the governor more sway over education policy by having direct oversight of the state Education Department. The governor’s K-12 powers are currently limited outside of funding decisions.

The panel says it could cost nearly $2.5 billion more annually to implement every recommendation. And that may be a conservative estimate.

But the 25-member commission, which Snyder created last March and whose members were named in May, says lawmakers and the governor must confront bleak realities in Michigan’s education system.

Fourth-graders rank 41st nationally in reading, and the state is one of just three to see a decline in reading achievement since 2003. Eighth-graders rank 37th in math.

Michigan is 42nd in state aid for community colleges and universities and had the fifth-largest decline over the past five years. It has the fourth-highest tuition levels.