(February 28, 2023) – Michigan should double the funding for students who qualify for at-risk funding in the state’s 2023-24 budget, while providing far greater funding for English Learners and students with disabilities, according to testimony given today before Michigan’s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 by members of The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO).
The coalition’s proposal includes both short- and long-term fixes for Michigan’s school funding system, which vastly underfunds students with the greatest needs. For instance, research shows that the additional funding that Michigan provides for students from low-income backgrounds is near the bottom in the country when compared to states that have similar weighted funding systems.
“Leading education states such as Massachusetts demonstrate one of the most important systems of a healthy education eco-system: school funding,” said Alice Thompson, chair of the education committee of the Detroit branch of the NAACP and one of the co-chairs of the MPEO.
MPEO leaders who testified in person at the state Capitol Tuesday shared what Michigan can learn from leading education states’ school funding systems and how such models could make a significant difference in helping Michigan close opportunity gaps for all its students.
Read the full testimony here.
The statewide coalition is focused on advancing real opportunity and improving learning outcomes, especially for students who are the most underserved, including Black and Latino students, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, English learners and students in rural and isolated districts.
“While money is not the only factor that matters in public education, it does matter,” said Thompson, who is also CEO of BFDI Educational Services, Inc. and former CEO of Black Family Development. “Multiple recent studies have found that increased spending in higher poverty districts has significant positive impacts on student outcomes and that additional resources tend to have a greater impact on students from low-income backgrounds than for their wealthier peers.”
Coalition leaders called for Michigan to enshrine in state law a weighted school funding formula that they are calling an “opportunity index” to address concentrations of poverty — along with fair funding for English Learners, students with disabilities and children from rural areas.
They cited the example of Massachusetts, the leading education state for student performance and funding. Massachusetts invests more based on the concentration of students from low-income backgrounds in the school district. Rather than funding a flat amount as Michigan does, Massachusetts created 12 levels of weights, which increase as a district’s poverty rate increases, so districts that fall in the highest poverty rate band receive the highest level of additional funding.
In Massachusetts, the weight for students from low-income backgrounds ranges from 40% to 101%, depending upon how concentrated poverty is in a school district, as compared to Michigan’s flat rate of 11.5 %, which has not been fully funded in many recent budgetary years, said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest who is also a co-chair of the MPEO.
Additional funding could mean more support for educators in a state with dismal student performance, especially for students with the greatest needs, coalition members said. Districts with greater resources can provide additional support staff and instructional support, more competitive salaries, and better resourced classrooms.“Our path in Michigan is one that has had real and dramatic consequences for our most underserved students, including Black and Latino children, students with disabilities, English learners and students from low-income backgrounds, who have paid the greatest price for these decisions,” Thompson said to state leaders.
“Now, we have a choice to take a new path – a path of hope and opportunity,” she said. “Michigan’s school inequities must not be allowed to continue. That will take strong leadership committed to both equitable investment and to holding our education system accountable for dramatically raising results.”
About The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity
The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity is a statewide coalition focused on advancing opportunity and improving learning outcomes for all of Michigan’s students, especially students who are most underserved, including Black and Latino students, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, English learners and students in rural and isolated districts. Its partner organizations and members span Michigan’s diverse spectrum of civil rights, business, community-based non-profits, parent organizations and other sectors. MPEO shares a deep commitment to ensuring that every Michigan student has the opportunity to learn in a high-quality public school and receive the supports and resources that they need to fully realize their unique potential.