Just last fall, a new statewide equity coalition, the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity, formally launched and announced its ambitious goals to make Michigan a top ten state for opportunity for all students, starting by tackling the state’s most important high-leverage structural challenges for public schools and for vulnerable students, in particular.  These include moving Michigan from being one of the worst states in the U.S. for fair funding to becoming among the best.

This week, we’re pleased to share the fruits of this coalition’s hard work are beginning to take root.  Gov. Whitmer’s proposed budget represents significant wins for underserved students, including important progress that the MPEO coalition announced it would champion in Michigan.

Importantly, we applaud Gov. Whitmer for recommending to remove the problematic legislative language that currently requires cuts to be made first to the “at-risk” funding line — geared for students from low-income families, foster-involved youth and homeless students — when there is an overall budget shortfall. This detrimental action, which was used in many of the past budget years, exacerbates longstanding and historic inequities, further harming the students who have the greatest needs and have long been underserved.

Additional promising wins include: 

  • $746.5 million for economically disadvantaged students, which amounts to 11.5 percent of the base per-pupil amount per student, or full funding of that line item. According to an Education Trust-Midwest report released last fall, these students have not received the full funding that the state budget has prescribed in many of the past years, amounting to millions of lost dollars for students with the greatest needs.
  • $1.3 million for English Language Learners – a 5 percent increase to funding to support these students.
  • An additional 5 percentage point reimbursement of costs for special education students. This brings the state reimbursement of costs from 31 percent to 36 percent.
  • Increasing the base per-pupil funding to districts to $9,135 — a 5 percent increase, or an additional $435 per pupil.

We also applaud that the budget proposal reflects a strong commitment to investing in educational recovery and proposes funding for early childhood expansion; steps to address the teacher shortage crisis; and more funding for mental health programs in schools.

As the backbone organization for the MPEO coalition, we are proud to support this work and grateful to the Governor for proposing a new state budget that would take great steps forward in acknowledging the longstanding funding disparities that have disproportionately impacted economically-disadvantaged students and those with greater needs, particularly by providing more funding to students who are considered at-risk, English learners and student with disabilities. The Education Trust-Midwest – and coalition partners from the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity – strongly advocated for the state to provide greater funding for these students.

While it’s important to acknowledge progress, it’s also critical to note that Michigan remains one of the worst states in the nation for fair and equitable funding as compared to leading education states with similar funding formulas.

Indeed, the movement for educational opportunity for all students is just beginning.

As one of our coalition members, Mike Jandernoa, Founder and Chairman of 42 North Partners, noted, “For Michigan to become a national talent center, it’s critical to provide our students – all Michigan students – with the tools, funding and resources they need to be successful. Research shows that money in the classroom makes a difference when it comes to student achievement. We applaud Gov. Whitmer’s proposed education budget for acknowledging that vulnerable students, including low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities, need additional resources to succeed.  Providing greater funding for students with the greatest needs is a critical step toward making sure that Michigan will have the talent force we need – and that all students have the quality education that they deserve.”

Coalition member Alice Thompson, CEO of BFDI Educational Services Inc. and chair of the education committee of the Detroit branch NAACP, underscored the urgency.

“The bottom line is that we can’t wait any longer to transform policies that have been harmful for decades to students with disabilities, children of color and English Learners by underfunding their needs. This proposed budget is a start toward addressing these longstanding inequities, and we applaud the Governor for listening to our concerns. This budget gives me great hope we can work together to change those harmful policies – and transform our funding system to be fair and equitable – so every student has an opportunity for a bright future.”

We couldn’t agree more — and will continue our joint advocacy on these issues.