Alice Thompson, one of the three chairs of The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO), believes that the coalition’s advocacy work is making a difference for Michigan’s students who are the most underserved.
Their efforts are opening doors to inspiring conversations with policymakers, while helping to build their knowledge about strategies that leading states practice to close opportunity gaps for students, including students of color, English Learners, students with disabilities, students living in concentrated poverty and rural areas, and students from low-income backgrounds. With that momentum, nearly 20 MPEO members banded together for an impactful day of advocacy on Apr. 19 in Lansing.
A kickoff networking breakfast provided space for coalition members to meet with state representatives, discuss the urgency of fairly funding schools so that all students have the resources they need to be successful, and speak on behalf of the communities and organizations they represent.
“I am delighted and encouraged that our Advocacy Day in Lansing captured the attention and interest of our State Legislators on what they can do now to create an adequate, fair, and equitable education funding system for all students,” said Thompson, who is also chair of the education committee for the Detroit NAACP and the CEO of BFDI Educational Services, Inc.
The group continued to the Capitol and Senate buildings to engage in a series of meetings with legislative members, urging them to consider a funding system that considers the concentration of poverty and invests significantly more in the students who need it the most.
Ben Locke, MPEO member and Michigan executive director for TeachPlus, explained how the coalition members passionately joined together to meet with lawmakers both literally and metaphorically to express urgency around their recommendations.
“Literally, we stood together when there weren’t enough seats in a lawmaker’s office to accommodate everyone, showing how many people and groups truly care about funding our schools fairly,” said Locke. “More importantly, we stood together metaphorically around our recommendations: acting with urgency to ensure that students with disabilities, students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, rural students, and English Learners get the resources they need to be successful.”
The state-wide bipartisan coalition consists of a diverse spectrum of Michigan’s civil rights, business, community-based non-profits, parent organizations, and other sectors. Serving alongside Thomspon as chairs are Mike Jandernoa, founder and Chair of 42 North Partners and Chair of the West Michigan Policy Forum Policy Committee, and Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.
The MPEO envisions that Michigan will be a national leader in public education, where all children achieve at high levels, regardless of race, gender, disability, family income, native language, or geography. To ensure this ideal is attained, cultivating meaningful relationships between advocates and policymakers is the key to progress in the fight for education equity.