LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — To try to put how unique Michigan’s 2022 election is into perspective, let’s talk about Diet Coke. Diet Coke has been around long enough to be an iconic beverage. It first hit store shelves back in 1982.
That is also the last time voters in Michigan elected Democrats to control both the state legislature and governor’s office.
The power shift has the potential to lead to changes in gun laws, Michigan’s “Right to Work” laws, and education policy.
“We have been playing defense, especially in the education committee in the Michigan Senate for four years. We get to play offense now. It’s going to be a game-changer. Whole new game,” said State Senator Dayna Polehanki, a Democrat from Livonia.
Polehanki says while working as a teacher for almost 20 years she felt the state didn’t support or compensate teachers sufficiently. She ran for office because she wanted to change that.
“A dream that I have had for a long time is to increase teacher pay. And because we flipped the House and Senate and held on to Governor Whitmer, we are teed up to do that,” she said.
Polehanki says this election is a rejection of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s work to support Republican lawmakers who want to offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and religious education. Polehanki says school vouchers would leave public schools underfunded.
Some Republican voters voiced disappointment.
“They are talking about things that we don’t like,” said Marisol Hernandez, a Livonia Mom of six, of public schools in Michigan.
Hernandez says she would love to have vouchers help her transfer her children from public to religious school.
“I started to cry. It is very important to me,” said Katie Davis, a Redford Mom.
Davis says she cried with joy when she realized Democrats won control. She says public education policy is important to her. Her daughter is in an early education program to help with speech and she believes that Democrats will invest more in support.
“She currently is delayed in talking. She is three years old and we are trying to get the words out. We are trying. And they are coming. School has only been in session since September and we are getting there,” said Davis.
“There is not a money problem in the schools,” said State Senator Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake.
Runestad said lawmakers provided equitable funding last budget. He said he is confident he will be able to work across the aisle on issues that are important for children. He has been working on a package of bills that would provide interventions and support for students with dyslexia.
“Michigan is the worst state in the nation for dyslexic students. It has always been. There has been a huge pushback from the educational establishment, but I think we have momentum to get that passed,” said Runestad.
He is concerned that other goals he has may have to be put on hold.
“I was hoping to get more tax relief to the people of Michigan. And in my experience, when the Democrats are in control it is spend, spend, spend, spend,” said Runestad.