Rep Gay-Dagnogo Calls for Bipartisan Conversation on Urban Education

Lawmaker frustrated by suggestions rooted in politics, not sound policy
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

LANSING – State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) spoke today of the need for a truly bipartisan approach to addressing reform and budgetary issues within the Detroit Public School (DPS) system. Her response comes in the wake of suggested House Republican education reforms, many of which were offered without discussion with their Detroit Democratic counterparts.

“At this moment, the point is not to say one particular idea is better than another, regardless of the party that suggests it,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “If we’re going to reform education in Detroit, we need both sides to be talking, honestly and consistently. And I’m not seeing that right now.”

“With so many extremely divisive political issues plaguing the Michigan House recently, it can be easy to forget that when we’re talking about education, we’re talking about kids,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills). “We need bipartisan collaboration to fix troubled schools and ensure that all of Michigan’s children have a real shot at success in life.”

Among the comments were suggestions that the DPS be placed on a balanced calendar system and the introduction of vouchers, a popular platform amongst Republicans despite little evidence of its success.

“I absolutely welcome these kind of suggestions when they’re part of a broader dialogue about how to address the systemic inequality which has bred these issues in the first place,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “However, with more than 138 persistently low performing schools in our state, this isn’t just about Detroit.  We need to begin having dialogue which puts children first.  We need to focus on the impact of poverty, of oversized classrooms and of district deficits due to poor funding strategies.  We need to focus on attracting and retaining the best teachers for optimal academic achievement, for all Michigan children. Only then the conversation about reform can begin.”

Gay-Dagnogo’s comments come not from political strategy, but from personal experience. She currently serves as the Detroit and Democratic Caucus’ Urban Education chair, the policy subcommittee co-chair of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, in addition to being a former science teacher for DPS. With a wealth of firsthand knowledge, she is eager to couple her passion for the students of the city with sound, long-term educational policy for the state of Michigan.

“Education is not — and should not — be a partisan issue. Our kids aren’t political pawns,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “As members of Michigan’s 98th Legislature we have an opportunity and obligation to set adult differences aside to foster solutions that work for all of Michigan’s children. Republican, Democrat, urban, suburban — we need innovative thinking, and that will only take place if everyone has a voice here.”

The representative will host a State of Education “Moving Michigan Forward” Town Hall on Monday, Sept. 28, at 5:30 p.m., at Redford Branch Library, 21200 Grand River Ave., Detroit, during which the State Superintendent Brian Whiston, will provide an education update. Panel members will include State Board of Education Member Michelle Fecteau, former DFT President Keith Johnson, school board member Lamar Lemmons, Rev. Wendell Anthony, Co-Chair of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren. To gain greater understanding on these, and other vital issues for DPS, the public is encouraged to attend.