Equity-Centered Coalition of Civil Rights, Civic and Business Leaders Proposes a New School Funding Formula & Other Opportunity Strategies to Address Michigan’s Education Crisis
Jennifer Mrozowski, APR,
(December 7, 2022) — A statewide coalition focused on advancing real opportunity and improving learning outcomes for all of Michigan’s students, especially its most underserved students, today proposed an immediate solution-based agenda focused on closing Michigan’s troubling achievement and opportunity gaps through a revamped school funding formula and other equity-centered strategies.
In a letter to state leaders, the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO) — whose leaders span Michigan’s diverse spectrum of civil rights, business, community-based non-profits, parent organizations and other sectors — appealed to state leaders to address the education crisis facing Michigan’s students.
A key proponent of the bi-partisan coalition’s five-prong proposal includes revamping Michigan’s school funding formula to become a fair funding system that follows the example of the nation’s leading education state for both performance and fair funding, Massachusetts. The MPEO plan also calls for a robust new system of fiscal transparency and accountability to ensure that new dollars truly reach and benefit current students — and parents and other stakeholders have a clear view of how those dollars are advancing outcomes for their children.
Their goal: close opportunity gaps and accelerate learning, especially for students of color, students living in poverty, English learners, students with disabilities, and those living in rural and geographically isolated communities. Instead of Michigan’s inadequate flat funding weight for all at-risk students, the coalition proposes an “Opportunity Index,” where students who live in higher concentrations of poverty receive a higher weight than those who do not.
“Schools need appropriate resources to address the learning needs of ALL students for them to meet their greatest potential,” said Monique Marks, CEO of Franklin Wright Settlements and a member of the MPEO coalition.
“In leading education states, major new investment in public education is paired with strong, evidence-based systems of accountability and transparency, and not just for student outcomes and learning, but also for fiscal expenditures and accountability,” said Mike Jandernoa, a West Michigan business leader who is founder and chair of 42 North Partners and Policy Chair for the West Michigan Policy Forum. “We believe it’s critical that funding intended for students with the greatest needs actually reaches them in their schools and classrooms.”
The MPEO Coalition’s funding recommendations include:
- A research-based weighted funding formula that truly addresses the needs and advances the opportunities of students living in poverty through weights of 35% to 100% spread across twelve bands determined by concentration of poverty.
- Additional funding weights for English learners ranging from 80% to 100%, depending on each student’s language proficiency, to provide them with the additional resources and instructional supports necessary for language acquisition.
- Increased weights and reimbursements to fully fund students with individualized education programs (IEP), including funding for special education expenses and specialized transportation costs.
- Additional investments in rural education transportation costs, particularly for high-needs school districts.
The MPEO letter also includes recommendations and a call to action on:
- State leadership that will address Michigan’s pandemic learning losses which are shared by students across the state but experienced most acutely by students from low-income backgrounds, students in rural areas, Black and Latino students, English learners, and students with disabilities.
- A single accountability and public reporting system that is easy to understand and focused first on student learning and outcomes, and is updated regularly to inform parents, educators, community leaders and policymakers.
- Ensuring equitable access to effective and diverse teachers and school leaders, stating that every student deserves a highly effective teacher and principal who reflect the community and state’s diversity, and who provide standards-aligned, culturally-responsive instruction.
“Black students, Latino students, and other students of color especially need educators who look like them and reflect the great diversity of their local communities, families, and all of Michigan,” the letter stated.
The coalition members stressed the opportunity at hand.
“Student performance is falling at a faster rate than before, with the greatest impact falling on students who have long been underserved, including Black and Latino students, English learners, students living in poverty and students with disabilities,” said Alice Thompson, chair of the NAACP education committee and a member of the coalition.
“Research shows that it will take billions of dollars in new investment to make up for these losses and to close the achievement and opportunity gaps that have plagued our state for decades, especially for students with the greatest needs,” said Thompson, who is also CEO of BFDI Educational Services, Inc. “We implore state leaders to act now and with urgency to address this crisis.”
“Together we can meet this challenge by fully investing in all students and ensuring they have the opportunity and resources they need to succeed,” Marks said.
Signers of the letter include:
Amber Arellano, Executive Director
Alice G. Thompson, Chair of the Education
Committee, Detroit Branch NAACP
Leah Van Belle, PH.D, Executive Director
Matt Gillard, President
Jametta Lilly, CEO
Detroit Parent Network
Deidre Lambert-Bounds, President
Ignite Social Media
Monique Marks, President & CEO
Franklin Wright Settlements
Jen Heymoss, Vice President of Initiatives & Public Policy
Kalamazoo Community Foundation
Evelyn Esparza-Gonzalez, Executive Director
Hispanic Center of Western Michigan
Colleen Allen, President, and CEO
Autism Alliance of Michigan
David E. Meador, Vice Chair (retired)
Mike Jandernoa, Founder
42 North Partners
Monique Stanton, President & CE
Michigan League for Public Policy
Diana R. Sieger, President
Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Mike Rafferty, Executive Director
Holly Windram, PH. D, Executive Director
Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps
Maha Freij, President & CEO
Peri Stone-Palmquist, Executive Director
Student Advocacy Center
Eric Brown, CEO
Urban League of West Michigan
Jose Orozco, Executive Director
Ben Locke, Michigan State Director