Prominent Civil Rights, Business and Education Policy Leaders Named to Lead Statewide Coalition Focused on Improving Education for Students who are the Most Underserved

Jennifer Mrozowski, APR,

(February 8, 2023) — A statewide coalition focused on advancing real opportunity and improving learning outcomes for all of Michigan’s students, especially students who are the most underserved, today named three key leaders in Michigan’s civil rights, business, philanthropic and education policy and advocacy sectors to lead the statewide group as it expands its collective advocacy efforts.

Serving as the new co-chairs of the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO) are Alice Thompson, chair of the Detroit Branch NAACP education committee, CEO of BFDI Educational Services, Inc., and former CEO of Black Family Development, along with Mike Jandernoa, founder and Chairman of 42 North Partners and Chairman of the West Michigan Policy Forum Policy Committee, and Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.

Arellano, Jandernoa and Thompson are deeply respected for their decades of work across Michigan’s communities and their sectors to make a difference to improve conditions for Michigan’s children, as well as the state’s talent pipeline.

“Our coalition is strongly committed to ensuring that every Michigan student, particularly students with the greatest needs, including Black and Latino students, English learners, students with disabilities and children from low-income backgrounds, have equal opportunities to succeed in school and in life,” said Thompson. “This work is more critical than ever as Michigan has fallen behind leading states on key measures for success, including early reading.”

The MPEO is a growing bipartisan, statewide coalition whose leaders span Michigan’s diverse spectrum of civil rights, business, community-based non-profits, parent organizations and other sectors. The diverse table, which includes 30 organizations and individual leaders, are working together to promote educational equity for all Michigan students.

Their agenda includes:

  • Advocating for evidenced-based policies and practices to close achievement and opportunity gaps for students, including investments that address the need for pandemic learning recovery among many students.
  • Creating a fair and equitable school funding system in Michigan.
  • Ensuring fiscal transparency about how dollars are spent to guarantee dollars intended to support students with the greatest needs actually reach them.
  • Advocating for strong accountability and transparency for student outcomes.
  • Promoting strategies that attract, support and retain highly-effective educators who provide standards-aligned, culturally-responsive instruction.
  • Ensuring that Michigan schools have an effective and diverse talent pool to ensure all students have effective teachers who reflect the diversity of their communities.

“More than ever, Michigan’s students need strong state leadership and committed advocates to ensure that every student has access to a great public education and that Michigan has a strong talent pool to support its economy and future,” said Jandernoa. “Our coalition is driven to make Michigan a national leader in public education, where all children achieve at high levels, regardless of race, gender, disability, family income, native language or geography – and we intend to amplify our efforts in the 2023.”

The newly-named MPEO leadership comes on the heels of an announcement in December of the MPEO’s immediate solution-based agenda focused on closing Michigan’s troubling achievement and opportunity gaps through a revamped school funding formula and strategies to address the pandemic learning recovery efforts.

A key goal of the bipartisan coalition includes revamping Michigan’s school funding formula to become far more fair and equitable, following 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.

“For far too long, opportunities for a high-quality education have been elusive for too many Black and Latino students, children from low-income backgrounds, English Learners and students with disabilities,” Arellano said. “Their public schools have been unfairly under-resourced for decades. Our bipartisan partnership aims to change that by strongly advocating for transformative change in Michigan’s educational system, including evidence-backed strategies that we know work in leading education states. This is a critical moment for our state, and we are confident Michigan’s leaders will commit to doing what’s right so that all Michigan students can reach their full potential.”

The MPEO already has had important policy wins in the two-plus years since its founding, including successfully advocating to close longstanding school funding gaps to provide more resources to support students with the greatest needs.

While far more needs to be done, this past year’s budget not only contained a record amount of funding for schools, but it represented the most equitable budget the state has passed in recent memory, prioritizing spending for students from low-income backgrounds and students with disabilities. State leaders also agreed to strike a section of state law that was used repeatedly to cut additional funding for students from low-income backgrounds, eliminating a harmful provision that was a key advocacy initiative for the coalition.

Other important policy wins include leading the charge on food security and pandemic assistance so that that nearly 900,000 Michigan students had much-needed food assistance when school meals were cut off due to the pandemic and promoting transparency of student learning and honest information about educational recovery, while supporting temporary pause of accountability during pandemic education.

About the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity

The MPEO is a diverse, bipartisan, statewide coalition of civil rights, social justice, civic and business leaders working to promote educational equity for all Michigan students, especially the most underserved. The table includes individual members as well as organizations who have signed on to be allies for equity.

Bios for the MPEO co-chairs

Alice Thompson, chair of the NAACP Detroit branch education committee, serves as the CEO of BFDI Educational Services, Inc.  She also serves as the President of BFDI Training Institute Board of Directors. For 26 years, Alice served as the CEO of Black Family Development, Inc, from which she retired in 2020 and now serves as CEO emeritus.  During this time, she established two subsidiaries focused on education, improving academic results, building relationships, and repairing harm.

Thompson is a graduate of Leadership Detroit, and in 2010, she completed the Harvard Business School Strategic Perspective in Nonprofit Management.

Thompson served for several years as an Adjunct Professor in the Wayne State University School of Social Work; and has served as Chair of the Wayne State University School of Social Work Board of Visitors.

She is Third Vice President of Detroit Branch NAACP and has served on many boards which have a focus on education, workforce development, health, diversity, equity and inclusion; racism; racial, social and economic justice; and other quality of life issues, including the revitalization of neighborhoods in the City of Detroit.

Mike Jandernoa is the founder and Chairman of 42 North Partners and Chairman of the West Michigan Policy Forum Policy Committee.  He was the CEO and Chairman of the Perrigo Company and continued to serve on the Board until 2017.   Perrigo is a leading global health care supplier that develops, manufactures, and distributes over-the-counter drugs and personal care products.

Jandernoa is a graduate of the University of Michigan Business School and was a CPA, having worked at BDO Seidman for seven years prior to joining Perrigo. Hired by Perrigo as CFO, he was promoted to President and CEO in 1981 and added the role of Chairman of the Board in 1991.

He has also served on a number of boards, both public and private companies and a number of nonprofit boards, including the Business Leaders for Michigan, the University of Michigan President’s Advisory Group, Grand Valley University Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and Heart of West Michigan United Way.

Amber Arellano is the founding executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. Founded in 2010, today Ed Trust-Midwest is widely recognized as a leading voice for non-partisan data, research and policy expertise. Under her leadership, Ed Trust-Midwest led the cross-sector development of Michigan’s first statewide educator support and evaluation system. In partnership with the Steelcase Foundation, Arellano also founded the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to bring proven best practices from leading education states to Michigan’s high-poverty schools.

At the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she helped developed cross-country public engagement campaigns. A veteran journalist, Arellano earned national awards including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Commentator of the Year award for her influential work on behalf of Michigan’s vulnerable students. Arellano earned her Master of Public Policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and her Bachelor’s in secondary education from Michigan State University. A former public high school teacher, she is a first-generation college graduate. She serves on the board of the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation and the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy Alumni Board.

By Published On: February 14, 2023Categories: News

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