Press Release

Ed Trust calls on state leaders protect vulnerable children from drastic budget cuts, saying decades of disinvestment and inequality place Michigan’s students among the bottom nationwide

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (June 23, 2020) – As the U.S. rightfully confronts longstanding inequality and racial injustice, Michiganders have a historic opportunity to address decades-long underinvestment in education and opportunity gaps disproportionately impacting students of color, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners and students in rural communities. Today the Education Trust-Midwest – an organization focused on pragmatic solutions that move our state forward – issued that call to action in its 2020 State of Michigan Education Report, A Marshall Plan: Reimagining Michigan Public Education.

“U.S. public education faces a historic challenge and opportunity to prioritize the needs of Black, Brown and low-income students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the nonpartisan The Education Trust-Midwest. “Never before in modern American history has there been a more important moment for Michigan’s governor and legislature to step up and commit to shielding these and other vulnerable students from harmful budget cuts – and to ensure their educational recovery is an utmost public priority in our state this year.”

“Michigan’s Black and Brown, and rural and low-income students, are no less talented than the children of other states,” Arellano added. “Over decades of high stakes decisions by the state’s leaders, Michigan has become among America’s most inequitable and unfair states for the gaps between what the state invests between poor and affluent schools. It’s time that changes. We do not want to go back to the old normal. The old normal is unfair and vastly inequitable. We need a ‘new normal’ that equitably invests in all communities and recognizes every child’s innate capacity to learn at high levels, no matter the color of their skin, the language they speak or their zip code.”

The report found that Michigan, having made no progress from 2003 to 2019, ranks 36th in improvement among all students in fourth grade reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card.  For fourth grade reading and eighth grade math, Michigan’s African American students perform among the bottom 10 states in the nation. In reading, Michigan’s Latino students improved about one third as much as Latino students nationwide in early literacy since 2003.

At the same time, Michigan has been among the worst states in the U.S. for its fairness in funding. Specifically, Michigan is one of the bottom five states nationally for the funding gap between high-poverty and low-poverty districts. And between 1995 and 2015, Michigan had the lowest total education revenue growth of all 50 states. Already, nearly 1,000 letters have been sent to Michigan policymakers urging them to join our Fair Funding Pledge.

“Our schools are struggling greatly to improve key predictors of Michigan students’ future lifetime earnings and academic success,” Arellano added. “The learning outcomes of rural, low-income, African American, Latino and immigrant children are not simply the concerns of communities of color or the Upper Peninsula. This is about Michigan’s future economic success — and whether all Michigan’s children will have the skills they need to succeed in the global economy.”

Pointing to Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine (R) as a model for Michigan to prioritize equity and investment in vulnerable students, Ed Trust-Midwest highlights the importance of taking an equitable approach to state budget cuts. It also calls for state leaders to equitably distribute federal stimulus dollars to better support rural and poor districts’ critical work to mitigate COVID-19 learning losses.

“We can do this,” Arellano said. “In a state that continues to struggle greatly to improve learning outcomes, it is critical policymakers minimize cuts to all schools and prioritize investment in kids who most need support.”

The report offers a pragmatic, solutions-based educational recovery agenda for COVID-19. The Michigan Achieves! campaign aims to make Michigan a top ten education state for all groups of students and reports on progress and performance indicators on a range of research-based issues.

Among other findings:

  • Michigan is one of 18 states declining in early literacy since 2003, according the national assessment.
  • For low-income students, Michigan ranks 32nd for fourth grade reading and 44th for fourth grade math.
  • For white students, Michigan ranks 39th for fourth grade reading and 42nd for fourth grade math, a drastic decline from being ranked 13th nationwide for both assessments in 2003.
  • More than half of Michigan third graders were not reading at grade level before the COVID-19 crisis, and nearly two-thirds of seventh graders were below grade level in math on Michigan’s state assessment.

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