by Wendy Santamaría
Long before declaring her candidacy for governor Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer was an advocate for health care access, women’s rights and most prominently, public education. The granddaughter of lifelong educators, Whitmer has committed to putting students first and countering a harmful agenda put forth by Betsy DeVos. It’s time, says Whitmer, for Michigan to have “a governor who understands how critical the educator’s voice is in creating the best policies around our schools.”
Following are five facts about Whitmer for education voters that set her her apart from her opponent Bill Schuette, who has received at least $176,800 since 2010 from the Betsy DeVos family and DeVos organizations.
Whitmer voted against a law that illegally took school employees’ pay.
Whitmer voted against a law while in the state senate that allowed the state to deduct 3 percent of school employees’ pay to fund retiree health care. For six years, Schuette defended the law in court, denying school employees more than $500 million of their own earnings. In response to a legal challenge from the Michigan Education Association and other labor groups on behalf of 200,000 school employees, the state Supreme Court found the law to be unconstitutional in 2017. Schuette, in an election season conversion, said he supported the court’s ruling. “That is why the union matters,” Whitmer says. “And it’s why this election is vital.”
Whitmer is committed to dismantling Betsty DeVos’s laws and policies.
“No one goes into education because they think it’s going to be lucrative. They do it because they care about our kids. In 2018 we’re going to stop the dismantling of public education and put an end to the DeVos agenda in Michigan.” Whitmer said, “If we’re going to fix the education system in our state, we need leaders who will reject the DeVos pay-to-play agenda.” Whitmer has committed to dismantling the privatization of education put forward by DeVos, a Michigan native, and supported by Schuette. Among the DeVos policies that Whitmer wants to do away with are unaccountable charter schools and private school vouchers. “For-profit companies have broken our education system. We cannot continue to let Michigan’s charter schools fail our kids. It’s time we put much-needed oversight in place to hold charter schools accountable…” She continued, “Right now, we’re not doing enough for the kids of this state, and let me be clear, it is not the fault of the heroes on the front line every single day. It’s because our leaders in Lansing have undermined local control, they’ve undervalued education through budget cuts and they’ve underappreciated the educators and support staff in our schools.”
Whitmer has been recommended by Michigan educators.
“At a time when public education is under attack across the nation and especially in Michigan, Whitmer will bring back respect for teachers, resources for schools and a well-rounded education for students,” said Macomb County music teacher and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart. MEA unanimously recommended Whitmer. And ever since, she has garnered the most endorsements from labor organizations thanks to her successful record of fighting for organized labor. Herbart said, “In the last eight years, too many [state] lawmakers have subcontracted their duty to provide the best educational opportunity for our students to Betsy DeVos and her destructive agenda: dramatic reductions in school funding; expanding unaccountable, for-profit charter schools; over-emphasizing standardized tests; and attacking hard working educators. The results have been disastrous. Whitmer will take back Michigan’s education policy decisions from DeVos and those beholden to her – including Attorney General Bill Schuette.”
Whitmer’s education plan places educators and students first.
As part of her education plan, Whitmer states, “It’s time to start treating our educators with the respect they deserve. That means listening to our frontline educators about the challenges they face, paying them a competitive salary, and making sure they have safe classrooms and the supplies they need to educate our kids. It also means giving educators more time to interact one-on-one with students in their classrooms and collaborate with their peers to learn from best practices”
Whitmer’s education plan centers on four points:
- Quality education from cradle to career
- Paths to prosperity with a highly educated workforce
- Respect for educators, and
- Stabilizing school funding and improving accountability.
Whitmer led on health care, college access as a state legislative leader.
In 2012, Whitmer became the first woman chosen by her colleagues to serve as the Democratic leader in the state Senate. “We get lots of politicians that like to make political hay over the issues that we face as a state, and I don’t have any patience for that,” she said. “I want to solve problems.” And she did just that. As Senate Democratic leader, she led negotiations to expand access to healthcare to more than 680,000 Michiganders through the state’s Medicaid expansion. Whitmer authored the Michigan 2020 plan, which would provide a tuition-free four-year college education to every student in Michigan.