Education will be the cornerstone upon which Michigan can build a new economy. And while it’s understandable that the state must reduce expenditures considering its current budget crisis, education shouldn’t be on the chopping block. On Friday, Gov. Jennifer Granholm told legislators to stop cutting education funding. And she’s right. To supplement education funding, the state should improve its application for the federal Race to the Top program, which could provide as much as $400 million dollars for education. To take advantage of the federal money, the state must be prepared to reapply for the funds in June — and the federal government should recognize that Michigan needs the aid.

Michigan was not one of the 16 finalists for the federal Race to the Top program, which was created by the Obama administration. Final winners will be chosen later this spring. The program provides a one-time payment of $400 million for states that lack proper funding for education. In October 2009, the state legislature cut K-12 funding by $165 per pupil for the current academic year. In an effort to avoid making another round of similar cuts in the future, the state sought federal aid. Granholm has said that she intends to reapply for Race to the Top aid when given this opportunity in June. She plans to review the applications of the states that became finalists to improve Michigan’s application.

Cuts to education are detrimental to Michigan’s efforts to salvage its economy. A new kind of knowledge-based economy will depend upon the production of a highly educated workforce. But increased college enrollment depends upon a strong K-12 public education system. And though money doesn’t solve every problem in education, it certainly helps to create a strong base for the education system.

Recently, Granholm has criticized legislators for failing to approve school reforms that would help struggling schools become more efficient, according to a Mar. 5 Detroit Free Press article. She also proposed a services sales tax intended to raise $554 million for public schools. But until other efforts to find funds for education come to fruition, federal funding is the state’s best hope.

To supplement decreasing state funding, Michigan’s public schools could benefit greatly from federal aid. The state should do everything it can to ensure that it’s chosen to receive funding when it reapplies in June. It’s Granholm’s responsibility to rework Michigan’s application to make the state a more attractive candidate for the federal funds.

It’s unfathomable that the federal government ignored Michigan’s economic need when it chose finalists for this round of the Race to the Top program. Michigan’s economy — the worst in the country — is more than enough of a reason to include the state among those receiving federal funds. The federal government should award Michigan the funds it needs to improve the public education system in one of the country’s most economically downtrodden states.

Michigan’s public education has already taken too many cuts from the state. The federal government should encourage a strong education system to revive Michigan’s economy, starting with providing funding.

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