MEA presents specific education reforms to increase student outcomes and strengthen workforce

Testifying before the House Education Committee on Wednesday, MEA Vice President Nancy Strachan outlined three specific education reforms to help improve Michigan schools: increasing investment in early childhood education; strengthening vocational, agricultural and technical education; and enhancing professional development opportunities for educators.

The first reform -- investment in early childhood education -- pays off "both academically and economically," said Strachan, who served as a Michigan elementary school teacher for nearly 40 years. "Students engaged in these programs perform better throughout their academic careers than those who don't get that good foundation at an early age."

The second item, strengthening vocational, agricultural and technical education opportunities, is critical to building a strong workforce that can attract more investments and jobs to Michigan, Strachan said.

"We must strengthen vocational, agricultural and technical education, to ensure Michigan public schools can do both tasks we're charged with -- prepare students for lifelong learning and supply the skilled workforce necessary for the jobs that drive our economy," she said.

The third reform is to "improve, increase and intensify teacher professional development programs," Strachan said. Otherwise, Michigan will continue to lose the best and brightest teachers to other states, or have them leave the profession all together.

"Better-trained teachers who are certified and are provided with continual and updated professional development produce the best possible student outcomes," Strachan said.

Strachan said it's time for everyone involved in education -- teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and policymakers -- to come together to improve the quality of education for every Michigan child. School employees should be full partners in any discussions that involve improving schools.

"Teachers and school support staff have valuable contributions to make when it comes to shaping the agenda for education reform," Strachan said. "After all, they're the ones who actually spend their days in the classroom."

Read Strachan's full testimony.