Developing Opportunities for Education and Long-Term Progress
Comm-PAC continued its “Get to Know” event series on Friday, April 28, with Rep. Jon Hoadley. Nine Comm-PAC members met with the Kalamazoo County Democrat at Water Street Coffee in Portage. Hoadley started by sharing the positive praise he hears about Kalamazoo in his travels.
“It’s a great experience when I’m talking to my colleagues in the legislature while traveling across the country that people have heard of Kalamazoo,” Hoadley said.
Acquaintances mention The Kalamazoo Promise, the growing beer industry, and the art scene.
“What that really says is, ‘I’ve heard of it, I like it. And there’s something happening there.'” Hoadley said.
Guided by attendee questions, the topic of discussion turned to education – a subject Hoadley is very passionate about.
“I come from a family of educators,” he said. “And I believe that education is the best path to opportunity.
“I would argue that teachers are largely under attack because of a few bad apples,” Hoadley said.
Referring to the recent discussion of closing Washington Writers’ Academy and Woodward School for Technology and Research, Hoadley said, “These two schools in Kalamazoo County are following all the rules and doing everything right, but the state test scores still need improvement.”
Finding the right balance between early intervention and motivating parents to come alongside the effort to make family-wide changes is key, Hoadley said.
“Parents want what’s best for their children; we just need to show them how educational programs before children even start kindergarten can have a lasting impact on their adult lives,” he said.
“When you have a mentor and they can intervene in your life and help you break barriers,” Hoadley said, “that impact can be huge.”
Partnerships with businesses, community non-profits, and educational opportunities are also key, Hoadley said.
Speaking of KC Ready4s and other preschool programs, Hoadley said, “It’s hard to get people to think about the fact that we are making a 20-year down payment on a child’s future, but that’s really what it is.”
The need for interventional programs extends far beyond early childhood, Hoadley said.
“The reality is that humans are imperfect beings and I believe we need to give second chances, sometimes even third,” he said. “I’m not willing to give up on the 25- to 30-year-olds and focus solely on preschoolers.”
“I’m on the appropriations committee,” Hoadley said. “We may disagree on how I want to spend the money, but I’m really good at math. We need more people on both sides of the aisle who understand the math in the budget.”
Outside of specific issues, Hoadley stressed the need for making balanced and long-term focused decisions.
“For the next year-and-a-half, we all need to have a wake-up conversation. Our general fund budget is the same as what is was 30 years ago,” he said.
Hoadley said uncomfortable discussions, the repercussions of which will outlast any one’s tenure in the current legislature, are necessary to help Michigan grow.
“It’s a diverse team that makes the most impact,” he said.
“Working together on smaller projects is training for future projects.”
When it comes to making changes to better Southwest Michigan big or small, Hoadley isn’t afraid to reach across the aisle and form partnerships.