Opinion: Michigan needs a school funding system that supports all students’ needs
By Dave Meador and Amber Arellano
This opinion piece originally appeared in Bridge Michigan.
As this unprecedented school year ends, Michigan educators are continuing to grapple with the many challenges of how to help their students catch up and accelerate following the great disruption of learning due to COVID-19.
Yet for teachers serving underserved students, the challenges will be far greater. Addressing the needs of all students, but especially the most vulnerable, will be a key question for educators, state leaders, policymakers and all stakeholders over the next few years to ensure that every student has a bright future.
Michigan leaders should start by looking at what’s working in top education states, like Massachusetts, where leaders came together pre-COVID in an historic effort in 2019 to close the opportunity and achievement gaps among their students.
We can do the same in Michigan, but it will take commitment and courage to ensure that all of our students – and our state – are on a path toward recovery and acceleration.
Investment and Accountability Needed
While there have been many thoughtful conversations recently on how to use state surpluses and one-time federal stimulus funding to address the gaps, state leaders must simultaneously focus on this critical conversation: how to transform Michigan’s unfair school funding system, which is one of most regressive in America.
This is especially important as the pandemic disproportionately took its toll on vulnerable students, including students with disabilities, children in both rural and urban areas, English learners, and students from low-income backgrounds. But it’s also because the COVID-19 hardships experienced by underserved students – from unequal digital access to food insecurity to lack of resources, quality curriculum and school supports – build upon long standing inequities in Michigan’s education system that have worsened the opportunity gap.
In fact, our state has long been among the worst in the nation for gaps between wealthy and low-income districts. The result: tens of thousands of students lose out on opportunities they deserve – and our state is left without a sufficient talent pool to ensure a strong workforce for the future.
Indeed, Michigan’s educational crisis has been growing for many years – and it deserves a bold response.
Read the full commentary here.