There is a strong consensus among our communities that our schools are experiencing unprecedented levels of instability, which are hurting our students, staff, and parents alike.
My team and I have developed a thorough plan to address the many parts of our schools that need attention, investment, and fixing. Through our research, we were able to identify the following three primary issues:
Michigan is experiencing a serious teacher shortage;
Our Early Childhood Education centers are unstable;
Current school infrastructures are failing our students.
There is no question about our need to improve our schools’ operations to better support our families. In the following document, you will find a three-part solution to address each of these problems.
I will continue to fight for the issues most pertinent to our communities, and I am the only campaign with a clear vision to do just that. I openly welcome your feedback on our policy proposal outlined in the document below.
Part 1: Rebuilding the Teaching Profession
Addressing the State’s teacher shortage is one of Farhat’s top priorities. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has recently urged the Legislature to appropriate funds that will help address systemic challenges causing this shortage. As State Representative, Farhat recognizes the responsibility he holds in rebuilding the teaching profession here in the State of Michigan. The MDE has recently provided the legislature with a menu of strategic investment options to respond to the teacher shortage, which is designed to recruit and retain educators in our schools. Farhat is prepared to offer concrete and actionable steps that the legislature can adopt on day one.
Problem #1: Diverting School Aid Fund (SAF) revenue away from schools - In the early years following Proposal A’s passage, the Legislature transferred $600 million annually from the state’s General Fund to the School Aid Fund. In recent years, though, the Legislature has devoted over $600 million of School Aid Fund revenue to activities previously funded by the General Fund, essentially neutralizing funds allocated by Proposal A. This has resulted in a net decline of over $1.2 billion annually in state revenues initially dedicated to K-12 education between 1995 and 2015. This is more than $850 per pupil, or a decline of $1.6 billion when adjusted for inflation. Id.
Solution #1: All School Aid Fund revenue will be used in school-related functions only. Reserving the School Aid Fund funding for school-related functions will give our schools’ budget an additional $600 million. This will allow Michigan schools to invest in their teachers and rebuild the teaching profession. Specifically, Farhat has a plan to invest in the following strategic investments that aim to recruit and retain teachers:
Loan repayment for recent college graduates who commit to careers in education and for current teachers who are working to pay off college loans;
Supporting the mentoring of new teachers through grants to local school districts to provide release time and stipends to mentors, development of virtual curriculum and training, and regional technical assistance;
Expanding eligibility for child care to individuals enrolled in teacher preparation programs; and
Providing stipends to student teachers to relocate and pay for housing in high-needs school districts for up to one year.
Problem #2: The COVID-19 pandemic & School Closings - Schools are essential to students especially, but they’re also essential to families and Michigan’s economy. Schools provide students with reliable access to heat, meals, mental health supports, and internet. And in-person learning allows parents to work and contribute to our economy while their children learn and thrive. When community spread of the COVID-19 virus is prominent, schools can’t stay open. Even when schools are open, teachers who test positive or are exposed to COVID-19 take leave for up to 10 days and there are too few substitutes available to fill their vacancies.
Solution #2: Maximize COVID-19 mitigation efforts - Infection-control measures are costly, and Farhat is prepared to seek federal funding that has been allocated to Michigan PK-12 schools to pay for them. Michigan schools will be able to, in addition to current mitigation strategies, implement additional measures that reduce the risk of virus transmission. This would include providing more on-site testing locations to increase COVID-19 testing access and availability, and dedicate more resources to contact tracing efforts.
Part 2: Stabilizing Early Childhood Education (ECE) Center Access During the Pandemic
Farhat believes centering early childhood learning is critical to child development and long-term student outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has made the future of ECE centers unclear.
Problem: ECE centers are experiencing unprecedented levels of instability - The early childhood workforce typically experiences high turnover, but it has experienced more turbulence since the onset of the pandemic. ECE centers have experienced serious financial consequences that have made many of them difficult to operate. As a result, this has greatly impacted the quality of early learning programs. To make matters worse, children of color, dual-language learners, and children from low-income families have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of the pandemic on ECE centers.2 We know that children who attend ECE centers are more prepared academically in later grades, more likely to graduate from high school, and higher earners in the workforce.
Solution: Public investments have to be sufficient. Farhat is committed to pooling as much public funding as is available to the 15th district’s ECE centers. More funding allows ECE centers to pay all early childhood learning workers a living wage and establish equal pay with K-12 educators with matching qualifications. During this pandemic, Fahat will encourage collaboration between ECE centers and local school districts to provide the ECE workforce with regular access to COVID-19 testing sites, vaccines, and boosters.
Farhat believes in working with local ECE centers to assist them in applying for state and federal funding, such as Head Start Funding and Preschool Developments Grants Birth-5 respectively. Michigan is one of 20 states selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to receive the Preschool Development Grant, and Farhat is committed to working hand in hand with local centers to submit their best applications to access this unique funding.
Part 3: Investing in School Building Infrastructures
The quality of our schools’ infrastructure affects how students learn. Farhat believes investing in our buildings will improve our students’ learning experiences, thereby producing more productive members of society.
Problem #1: Schools need sufficient space in the classroom and beyond to accommodate staff and students. More than ever before, students need guaranteed access to libraries, science and computer labs, media centers, art and physical education equipment.
Problem #2: School buildings also have the potential to affect the health and well-being of students and staff. According to Michigan State University’s Education Policy Report, the following factors are some of the many that contribute to poorer health:
Poor ventilation can cause respiratory illness and declines in alertness and attendance;
Classroom acoustics affect students’ attention and learning;
Poor lighting affects how well students sleep at night and therefore how ready they are to learn during school hours.
Solution: Push for targeted state facility funding. Michigan has established high performance standards for students and schools, and the burden of paying for changes necessary to fulfill these standards must shift from the local to the state level. The State has the responsibility to ensure its school districts have the capital finance to implement necessary changes in their schools’ infrastructure to better support student learning. Under this plan, the State will identify districts with great infrastructure needs and supplement them with funding grants.
As our environment continues to change so too must our infrastructure. New investments ARE needed to bring our city into the 21st century, employing sustainable practices in the process.
Ensuring we all have clean air to breathe and water to drink will always be a priority. The consequences of climate change are real and our state’s government is crucial in safeguarding our future.