Underinvestment and inequality place Michigan near bottom

Educational recovery will necessitate equity-based budget decisions, education advocates say

Michiganders must address decades-long underinvestment in education and opportunity gaps disproportionately impacting the state’s most vulnerable students, according to Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest.

Arellano recently joined Elizabeth Moje, Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, and renowned journalist Stephen Henderson on WDET’s Detroit Today to talk about the need for an equity-driven agenda for school funding decisions.

“For children of color, for rural students, for immigrant students, English Language Learners and children with disabilities, Michigan has really been failing these vulnerable kids for years,” said Arellano, noting that Michigan has not sufficiently invested in education and ranks as one of the least equitable states for education funding.

The conversation came as the state’s leaders considered ways to plug a $2.2 billion budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican leaders struck a deal on the budget crisis for the current fiscal year, they are now grappling with an even greater budget hole expected for the upcoming year, leaving much uncertainty for school districts as they prepare for the fall.

Arellano called on Michigan leaders to consider an equity- and investment-focused agenda for Michigan’s educational recovery to address the learning loss from school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to read the full post. Listen to the full program here.


Roadmap released for Michigan school re-opening

Last week, Governor Whitmer (D) and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education and the Return to School Advisory Council released “MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap.” The document outlines conditions and protocols for in-person instruction to resume next school year and recommends planning for instruction and various student services before school resumes in the fall.

The document specifies that if Michigan has returned to phases 1-3 of the MI Safe Start economic re-opening plan, schools will not be able to open for in-person learning and instead will engage in remote learning only. If the state remains in MI Safe Start phases 4 or 5, in-person instruction may resume with safety protocols in place. In-person learning with minimal safety protocols will only be permitted once Michigan enters phase 6 of MI Safe Start.

Under the MI Safe Schools plan, schools and districts will plan for how to re-open schools for in-person learning, under a series of health and safety requirements and recommendations. If Michigan remains in MI Safe Start phases 4, many of the health and safety protocols are required for in-person learning. Under phase 5 of MI Safe Start, these protocols are recommended, but not required:

  • Unless medically unable, staff must always wear face coverings, except for meals. Teachers of young children and special education teachers are encouraged to wear clear masks.
  • Unless medically unable, students and staff must wear face coverings during school transportation, in hallways and other common spaces.
  • Students in sixth grade and older must wear face coverings in classrooms unless medically unable to do so. Elementary school students should consider, but are not required to wear face coverings in classrooms unless they are coming into close contact with students and teachers from another class.
  • Adequate supplies, including soap and hand sanitizer, must be provided, along with signs and other reinforcement about proper handwashing techniques.
  • As much as possible, six feet social distancing should be observed. This includes the spacing of desks, marking distance for line formation and the flow of traffic in hallways. It is recommended that guests not be permitted to enter school buildings, except under extenuating circumstances.
  • Schools must follow CDC guidelines and cooperate with the local health department for protocols related to screening students and staff, and if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19. Frequently touched surfaces (light switches, bathrooms, computer labs, student desks, etc.) must frequently be disinfected.

Click here for the full plan.

Ed Trust-Midwest: High stakes for Michigan’s premature request to cancel assessments, accountability for coming school year

Michigan became the first state to ask the U.S. Department of Education to waive requirements around school accountability and student assessments for next school year.

At this high-stakes time for Michigan students, it is critical for parents and educators to have honest information about how their children and students are learning – and how they may need to be supported at a time of unfinished learning and COVID-19. This information is key to informing children’s instruction and bringing transparency to the many educational efforts happening across the state.

It is deeply disappointing to see Michigan’s move today away from assessments that measure student learning, as well as provide accountability for student learning among schools and districts. Regardless of where learning happens, next year will be pivotal for ensuring that every student is provided with the supports that they need to accelerate and succeed.

It is far too early to cancel assessments for next year. We urge the Michigan Department of Education to rescind this request and provide support to schools and students, while ensuring transparency and accountability for student learning.

Read our full statement here.

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