From cradle to grave: Michigan is rapidly expanding education bureaucracy

Michigan education establishment fails students, gets rewarded with money and influence

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to expand Michigan’s education bureaucracy through the formation of a second “education department” does not address the problem of deteriorating outcomes in public education’s primary function: teaching students from kindergarten through high school. Instead, Whitmer wants to draw programs for pre-K and young adults into the state’s failed education establishment. 

The department is called MiLEAP: Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential.

“I’m establishing MiLEAP today because we need to get every kid started early,” Whitmer stated when announcing the program, “in pre-K, so they succeed in kindergarten, have paths after graduation to get higher education tuition-free, and forge strong partnerships with our employers so they can get a good-paying, high-skill, and in-demand job.”

Why is Whitmer devoting more money and resources to creating an additional education department when the original is failing its core mission? Do not our children deserve every available resource to achieve core competencies in the K-12 public school system?

Children’s academic outcomes and mental health have deteriorated in part because of Whitmer’s decision to shut down schools during the COVID-19 panic. Recent proficiency scores on standardized tests show students have not recovered.

The government has spent tens of millions on early education and Great Start programs for pre-K already, and test scores have declined. Literacy rates have also decreased. “The benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent  for the program population as a whole,” a Head Start Impact study published by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2010 concluded.

Michigan has spent $1.64 billion on its Great Start Readiness Program from 2013-14 through 2019-20. The program originally received $1 million in funding when it launched in 1985-86. Yet student’s National Assessment of Educational Progress scores since the early 1990’s have remained relatively flat. The biggest dip in NAEP performance began in 2019, with a steady decline since.

Fourth-grade reading scores dropped 2.97%, from 218.3 on the 2019 NAEP assessment to 211.8 in 2022. The lower scores resulted in Michigan moving from 32nd place in reading to 43rd in the nation this year. Eighth-grade reading scores dropped from 262.6 to 258.5, a 1.56% decrease. Eighth graders in Michigan were 28th in the nation for reading and are now ranked 31st.

Though spending taxpayer money on pre-K education initiatives has produced few to no results, Whitmer is demanding more. And it is not just for the youngest in Michigan. The Whitmer Administration is creating a system that will give the government more control over young adults as well.

“MiLEAP will create low or no-cost paths for students to earn an affordable education in an in-demand field,” Whitmer said. “The department will help them get the support they need on campus to graduate on time and pursue a fulfilling career right here in Michigan.”

In other words, Michigan residents who either couldn’t afford college or decided to forego secondary education and enter the workforce will be paying for other people’s college expenses.

I warned in July 2022 that the government seeks to have power over our children even before birth. Whitmer’s administration laid the groundwork of a P20 system where ‘P’ stands for prenatal and ‘20’ refers to years of age.

It “believes caring for, supporting, and educating the Whole Child is an essential part of promoting academic achievement and excellence through the P-20 system,” according to the Michigan Department of Education’s Whole Child Definition.

This is not the first time a government was eager to have influence over the lives of our youngest in society, and stay involved as adults. Friedrich Engels shared the same desire in his book The Principles of Communism. Engels’ prescription: “Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost.”

President Joe Biden echoed that this sentiment in April. “There's no such thing as someone else's child,” Biden said. “Our nation's children are all our children.”

Our government has so far failed to educate our children and wasted billions in taxpayer dollars while doing so. The people of Michigan should not support rewarding it with more power, money, or responsibility.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.