Press Release

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (June 22, 2017) – Proposing to go back to the days when Michiganders had no idea how their schools were truly performing compared to other states, today the Michigan state legislature adopted the fiscal year 2017-18 state budget with language that risks Michiganders’ access to honest and valid information about school performance. Yet it also includes important opportunities for advancing equity in schools, including more funding to support the education of vulnerable students.

“We applaud state legislative leaders who have committed to investing more in low-income students’ education,” said Amber Arellano, Executive Director of the non-partisan Education Trust-Midwest. “We thank lawmakers for their leadership on this critical issue. Now we need such thoughtful policymaking on school data and standards.”

The budget included:

  • Proposed Gutting of Honest School Information, Quality Implementation of Teaching Quality Efforts: Pushed by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Michigan’s new budget proposes to give the MDE the opportunity to change state assessments for the third time in six years. Such a change would be expected to undermine the thoughtful implementation of the state’s new educator evaluation and support system, which has been so effective at raising third-grade reading levels in leading states. And it would create unnecessary change in the classroom for teachers and students, just as they are getting used to teaching to Michigan’s rigorous career- and college-ready standards. Much more conversation is expected about this critical issue over the next few months.
  • Risks Equity, Validity and Comparability to Other States: If the MDE backs away from the state’s rigorous assessment system, the change could not only end Michiganders’ ability to compare their public schools’ performance and improvement to many other states around the country, but also would reduce reliability for smaller schools and limit the state’s ability to identify schools where groups of students are chronically underserved. This would be particularly harmful for students of color, who too often are overlooked or simply do not get the resources or supports they need to succeed by both the system and individual schools.

Despite these challenges, the budget also advances equity in key ways, including:

  • Significant $120 million funding increase for at-risk students – taking at-risk funding to nearly half a billion dollars;
  • Increasing funds for Bilingual/English Learners five-fold;
  • Investing in early literacy for a third year in a row, by providing about $30 million;
  • Increasing per pupil funding by $60-$120 per student;
  • Additional $25 per high school student, to help support higher educational costs in high school; and
  • Funding for a “value-added” data model, to more fairly and accurately understand the impact of a teacher.

“In so many ways, Michigan lawmakers have stood up for best practices from leading education states. Investing in early literacy improvement strategies and providing extra funds to educate the most expensive learning, are steps in the right direction,” Arellano said. “Despite the progress made in this budget, there are huge back steps, too. Now, the Michigan Department of Education will be able to pursue a new state assessment through a RFP process that risks the state adopting far less rigorous and less reliable standards for teaching and learning.”

“Michigan should be leading a statewide charge to support teachers and principals in raising the rigor of their teaching, and the full implementation of college- and career-ready standards,” Arellano added. “It’s one of the most proven ways of dramatically raising learning levels, especially for students of color, as evidenced by the nation’s leading education states.”

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The Education Trust-Midwest is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to improving outcomes for all Michigan students, especially for African American, Latino, American Indian, and low-income students. The Education Trust-Midwest believes in the power of intelligent education policy and practices — informed by data, research, and the successes of other states — to make Michigan a top ten education state for all students.