HELPING MICHIGANDERS GROW AND THRIVE

It’s not enough to have beautiful lakes. If we want to keep Michiganders here for the long run and attract new residents and businesses to our state, we need as much opportunity as we have water. Boosting our education system, being strategic about attracting new industries and employers to Michigan, and making sure our workers are empowered are the best ways to help our economy and job market grow.


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PUBLIC EDUCATION

A strong public education system is good for all of us, and we need to rethink how we fund ours. Choices are great, and we know there’s not a “one-size-fits-all” path for every student. However, we also know that 85% of charter schools in Michigan are for-profit, and that our public districts are responsible for educating a disproportionate number of children with special needs. It’s both unfair and unsustainable to funnel public tax dollars away from public districts designed to meet the complex needs of all students. Our current system that makes the “money follow the student” does just that, and favors for-profit schools that don’t have the legacy costs or transparency requirements of public schools.

We also need to make sure our public school funding keeps pace with inflation. Today, we’re spending less on public education than we did in the early 2000s once you adjust for inflation. There must be a better way to give our public schools the resources they need, and we can find it by talking to educators and administrators about what’s going on in their schools and how we can help.

Finally, we need curricula that prepare our students for whichever career path they’ve chosen. I support increased funding for vocational and trade schooling, but that’s just one step in the right direction. Giving every student a chance to succeed means offering diverse course options that include music, art, vocational, and recreational education. It also means providing the training and resources that teachers need and keeping class sizes manageable so teachers can do their best work. As the daughter of a vocational education teacher and the wife of a teacher, I know how committed teachers are to preparing our children for the future. Now, we need to show that we’re committed to them, too.


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EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE

Thriving means giving everyone the chance to succeed. We need to assure our LGBTQ+ workers that they are protected from discrimination at work like the rest of us. We need to eliminate the wage gap and give women—especially women of color—what they deserve: equal pay for equal work. In Novi, I led the movement to make sure our city government doesn’t just talk about inclusivity, but that we walk the walk, too. Now, we need to make improvements for women and LGBTQ+ workers all the way to the state level.

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BETTER JOBS

Education is only one part of the equation when it comes to being competitive for today’s jobs. The other key part is making sure well-paid, quality jobs are here for our talented workers in the first place. An educated workforce helps, but we also need updated infrastructure and a government that gets creative about attracting new industries and businesses to our area. For example, “Blue and green” jobs are high-tech positions in clean energy, conservation, mobility, and sustainable agriculture that have massive growth projections. We can use strategies like public/private partnerships and Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant funding to help entrepreneurs launch innovative new businesses that create these types of jobs. Forget corporate welfare, we must put programs and resources in place to support new businesses so we’re prepared to grow and compete today and tomorrow.


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WORKER’S RIGHTS

Having practiced workers’ compensation law on both sides of the table, I’ve heard it all: “Workers don’t want to work, they just want something for nothing. They don’t deserve what they’re paid at union jobs. We don’t need unions anymore, workers have it good already.”

The reality is that we wouldn’t have any of the safety nets and benefits we have today if it wasn’t for organized labor. Their contributions to the workforce have been life-changing, and we must preserve them for the workers of today and tomorrow.

All that said, we can definitely improve our programs serving workers and employers. For example, with workers’ compensation alone, we need:

• A uniform standard on what qualifies as a good faith job search.

• A clear definition of “a good and reasonable cause” for when injured or ill workers are unable to seek or keep employment.

• More reasonable cut off standards to make it fair for both workers and employers.

Even small changes can have a big impact on people trying to support themselves and their families, so let’s dispel the myths and keep this conversation going.