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Survey: Michigan small businesses want changes to graduation standards

Jake Neher

Small business owners want Michigan to make its curriculum standards for high school students more flexible.

The state passed broad standards in 2006 for all students. They are supposed to ensure all students are ready for college.

The Michigan Merit Curriculum requires four years of math and English language arts; three years of science and social studies; and two years of a foreign language. Complete standards are outlined here.

Charlie Owens directs the National Federation of Independent Business in Michigan, which has 10,000 members. He says there’s been a lot of talk among members about the impact the MMC has had.

“I think there’s a great snobbery in the education bureaucracy that if you don’t have a four-year degree, you’re a second class citizen,” Owens said.

Owens says businesses feel they're having a hard time filling some positions, at least in part, because of the standards. He says in many cases, these are highly skilled trade jobs, with a "good salary and benefits."

They surveyed 250 members this week, and 76-percent were in favor of changing the MMC.

“We’re not suggesting that just because you took vocational tech classes you’re all done at the high school level. We do agree you need to go beyond that, but that may not be college,” Owens said.

He says the state’s “central planning” efforts to strengthen standards defines success in one way – college bound.

“That’s very narrow-minded and there are other paths and they just don’t seem to want to allow for that flexibility or choice,” Owens said.

There are more than a dozen bills that have been introduced in the state legislature so far this year that revise the MMC.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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