Leaders from across Michigan gathered last week on Mackinac Island to discuss the state’s most pressing issues. Throughout the week, the conversation kept returning to the quality of public education in our state and the great need to better prepare Michigan students for success. As Education Trust-Midwest’s recent report, Opportunity for All found, Michigan is bottom of the nation in critical indicators of student learning and success.

“Right now, we are last when it comes to reading proficiency in our country,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer during her keynote presentation. “Until we fix this, nothing else matters.”

The comment came during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, where nearly 2,000 leaders from business, civic and government join at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel to learn and collaboration on pressing topics facing our state.

The broad scope of Michigan’s educational challenges was central to a conversation with the co-chairs of Launch Michigan, a collaboration of business, education and philanthropy, which Education Trust-Midwest is proud to be a member of.

“Every demographic group of students is behind,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation and Launch Michigan co-chair. “It is nothing wrong with our kids. It is nothing wrong with our educators. It is time for us to fix the system.

“Our students can’t wait, added Paula Herbart, Launch Michigan co-chair and president of the Michigan Education Association. “We are going to do the hard work…to make sure our students have what they need to be successful.”

The need for significant educational improvement, beginning with early literacy, is also a clear priority for legislative leaders. “Having the fundamental ability to read is at the core of all education… Having additional help in the classroom to teach these kids to read is a foundation they can build on,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield, during a discussion of Michigan’s legislative leadership.

In order to provide a quality education to all students, however, school funding must support the needs of students. Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer proposed a school aid budget that focuses additional resources based on student need. “Let’s put the resources where they are most needed,” said House Democratic Leader Christine Greig. “We have to rethink how we are doing this funding…if we really want to achieve and get up to a top ten state…we have to get more investment in there.”

Broad support for public education

Capital Update

House Education Committee met this morning. Agenda:

  • House Bill 4208 (Johnson – R), which would prohibit educator evaluations from being conducted by a family member of the educator being evaluated
  • House Bill 4262 (Reilly – R), which would expand the definition of “issuing officer” for work permits under the Youth Employment Standards Act to include the parent or legal guardian of a minor child who is being homeschooled.
  • House Bills 4626 (Paquette – R) – 4627 (Crawford – R), which would create a new category of public schools and districts called “public innovative school” or “public innovative district.” If passed, these schools and districts would be exempt from several critical requirements governing public schools and districts in Michigan. The Education Trust-Midwest opposes these bills. 

State Board of Education will meet on Tuesday, May 11 at 9:30 a.m. in the John A. Hannah building in Lansing. The agenda includes presentations on proposed standards for preparations and practice of school social workers and special education funding. The Board of Education will also consider approval of social studies standards and approval of a model code of student conduct.

Tweet of the Week

@EdTrustMidwest: Michigan is in the midst of a literacy crisis, ranking 16th from the bottom in early literacy. For more information, visit #MPC19 #michEd #mileg [THE NUMBER OF THIRD GRADERS BELOW PROFICIENT IN READING COULD FILL OVER 200 OF SHEPLER'S ISLAND FERRIES TO MACKINAC ISLAND.]