Supt. Watkins Inspires Condemnation and Confidence
Betsy DeVos: Aside from impressive public relations efforts,
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has a very spotty education record. Paul
Masseron: There she goes again. I am talking about Michigan
State Republican Chair and public school opponent, Betsy DeVos.
DeVos, The Detroit News, February 8, 2004
For more articles like this
from impressive public relations efforts, Gov. Jennifer Granholm
has a very spotty education record. Let’s look strictly at the
First, Granholm cut per-pupil funding. Then, incredibly,
Granholm rejected a $200 million education gift from a respected
Michigan philanthropist. This generous gift would have resulted
in new charter high schools across Metro Detroit.
But the one major, albeit unnoticed, problem with the governor’s
record on education is her tolerance of the total lack of
results from our state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Watkins. If we are to have real reform in our schools, any
improvement at all, it will require leadership from our
superintendent. Today there is none.
Obviously the Michigan Constitution doesn’t permit the governor
to fire the superintendent, but everyone knows the governor
could move him aside and demand real action.
Why is replacing Watkins important to Michigan’s children?
Simple. He is blocking the doorway to school progress and
Since starting Watkins has stalled and manipulated the state’s
process of accountability, preventing Michigan’s families from
knowing which schools are falling short and which kids are most
at risk. Ignorance is not bliss.
Watkins stalled the release of the accreditation report for all
of Michigan’s public schools, then he engineered a new criteria,
then he stalled it again. And a week ago — three years later —
he issued an incomplete report.
Today’s education problems are epitomized by Watkins’ highly
compensated tenure as superintendent. The talk is good, the
public relations amazing, but the academic results are mediocre.
To be sure, Watkins is perhaps the best cheerleader our schools
have. He is tireless in his promotion of teachers, kids, schools
and the necessity for strong public education in Michigan.
But I am interested, as are all parents in Michigan, in results
— and the only result that matters is student achievement.
Everything else, including how people “feel” about their schools
is secondary. If our schools produce ignorant, unprepared
graduates who feel good about themselves, we are doing them a
Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test scores have
fallen each year since Watkins took charge. Not an assertion, a
Graduation and drop-out rates in some of our metro areas hover
at frightening levels. Tens of thousands of children have left
our schools without graduating and there is little to no
progress in sight. All facts.
Perhaps the most insidious problem we have in the education
debate today is the tactic Watkins employs when responding to
his critics. He condemns those who have the temerity to point
out our lack of progress with the damning assertion that they
are “just talking down our schools.”
Michigan taxpayers have rightly placed the education of our
children as our number one budget priority. While we have proven
that throwing money at the problem does not equal success, it is
a good indicator of priorities. Our priorities are right, now we
As long as nearly two-thirds of our schools score average or
below average, we are failing our kids; no amount of public
relations can turn that into a good result.
Michigan needs a superintendent who will put aside personal
agenda’s, political views and aspirations and focus on what he
was hired to do: Guarantee Michigan’s schools are accountable to
parents and taxpayers and that our children have equal
opportunities for a quality education.
The job is not getting done. Tom Watkins should go, and the
governor should lead the charge.
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to