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She won. But can Gretchen Whitmer deliver on her promise to transform schools as Michigan’s next governor?


November 7, 2018
Koby Levin
Chalkbeat

Gretchen Whitmer, a former Democratic Senate minority leader who has cast herself as an ally of the Detroit school district, was elected governor of Michigan on Tuesday after promising to boost school funding across the state.

After leading Republican Bill Schuette consistently throughout the campaign, Whitmer’s showing was so decisive that it took only about an hour after polls closed for her to be declared the winner. Her victory was buoyed by a wave of antipathy toward President Donald Trump and a widespread feeling that Michigan’s schools and roads had foundered under a state government completely controlled by Republicans.

Whitmer could play a key role in resolving the Detroit district’s infrastructure crisis and increasing access to early childhood education. She has also promised consequences for low-performing charter schools run by for-profit companies — schools that compete with the city’s main district for teachers and students.

To make good on her education platform, Whitmer will likely need the support of some members of the Republican party. By the time she declared victory, it was still too early to tell whether Democrats would also make gains in a state legislature that has been solidly Republican in recent years.

On the campaign trail, Whitmer often returned to the fact that Michigan students are lagging behind their peers on several national measures. She offered solutions, including increasing access to pre-K to two free years, but has not been specific on how she plans to pay for some of these efforts.

Whitmer, a Lansing native, has undergraduate and law degrees from Michigan State University. She was in the state legislature for 10 years and has served as a county prosecutor. She lives in East Lansing with her husband and five children.