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Gov. Snyder discusses top priorities at recent press conference Gov. Snyder discusses top priorities at recent press conference PHOTO BY: Nick Manes

Despite Flint water crisis, Snyder still focused on education, training issues

BY Wednesday, March 16, 2016 01:54pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Despite being embroiled in an ongoing public health crisis in Flint, Gov. Rick Snyder insists that his administration remains committed to accomplishing other goals in his second and final term.

Snyder, while speaking to reporters during a press conference this week in Grand Rapids, said that talent and workforce development issues remain top priorities.

“I think we’re working hard to do many things,” Snyder said during the press conference. “Obviously, the crisis in Flint deserves attention and I spend a day or two a week up there. I’ll be up there this week. But there are other issues, and I’ve said this.”

Additionally, Snyder will travel to Washington, D.C. this week to testify on the Flint water crisis before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Snyder, who was in Grand Rapids for the Governor’s Economic and Education Summit at DeVos Place, noted myriad issues that remain a focus for his administration.

Particularly, Snyder noted a March 10 executive order that created the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission. The commission aims to provide “safe and cost-effective access to transportation, water and sewer, wastewater treatment and drainage, energy, communications and other services.”

Snyder went on to say that once he gets appointees on the Infrastructure Commission, he aims to file similar executive orders creating education and economy commissions.

“The reason I put them in that order is, if you want the 21st century economy, two pillars you have to have are 21st century infrastructure and 21st century education,” Snyder told reporters. “I think this is a great dialogue to have that now we have the bandwidth to have that discussion and look at the future.”

Snyder added that his administration is also focused on a plan for Detroit Public Schools, which could run out of money next month, according to reports. The DPS issue is one where Snyder could be close to a short-term victory, as the House Appropriations Committee this morning approved nearly $50 million that would keep the state’s largest public school system operating through the school year, according to a Detroit News report.

While the DPS funding crisis is one of the most discussed education issues in the state, Snyder told reporters that he remains focused on implementing new models for training the future workforce, particularly models that are driven by needs.

“By having the employers involved, these are people that actually need that talent to be successful. It’s actually demand-driven,” Snyder said in response to a question of whether he has concerns that some of the education programs he’s initiated could get bogged down in bureaucracy. “You want to get that alignment of supply and demand matching in some fashion.”

Jaime Casap, chief education evangelist at technology giant Google Inc., was the keynote at yesterday’s summit. Speaking with Snyder in the follow-up press conference, Casap was in full agreement with the governor’s approach toward education.

“I would say one of the biggest issues is the disconnect between the private sector and what’s going on in business and those communities,” Casap told reporters. “So the encouragement of putting businesses together with education and working together to create the opportunities for our students is absolutely critical.”

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