Statewide Equity Coalition Lauds Equity-Centered School Funding Recommendations from the Growing Michigan Together Council
The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity – a diverse, bipartisan, statewide coalition of leaders centered on educational equity – today praised Gov. Whitmer’s Growing Michigan Together Council for including several key transformational school funding recommendations in its final report.
“State leaders made a historic commitment in June to Michigan’s students, especially those who are most underserved, when they codified in state law a new Opportunity Index – a mechanism that will drive much greater state investment in students who qualify for at-risk funding based on a school district’s concentration of poverty, regardless of region,” said Alice Thompson, one of the three tri-chairs of the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO) Coalition.
“It’s a testament to the powerful need for a system of fair school funding that members of the Governor’s Growing Michigan Together Council not only included the Opportunity Index in their recommendations, but they also called for full funding of the Index,” Thompson said. “We are grateful for their leadership and vision in signaling such strong support for Michigan’s students with the greatest needs.”
Thompson, who is chair of the education committee for the NAACP Detroit branch and CEO of BFDI Educational Services, served on the PK-12 Workgroup for the Council, alongside Amber Arellano, who is also a tri-chair of the coalition and serves as executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. Mike Jandernoa, founder and chairman of 42 North Partners and chairman of the West Michigan Policy Forum Policy Committee, also is a tri-chair of the MPEO coalition.
In the immediate term, the Opportunity Index – which was approved by the Michigan legislature in June – will drive more than $950 million to the public education of students who qualify for “at-risk” funding in the FY24 state school budget, or more than $200 million above the FY23 state budget. However, the Index is not yet fully funded. As now written in state statute, the state funding mechanism sets new long-term goals for investing in Michigan’s students who qualify for at-risk funding that, upon full implementation, will invest more than $2.9 billion annually in these students.
“We are proud to have worked alongside our colleagues on the PK-12 workgroup to advocate for key equity-centered recommendations, like full funding of the Opportunity Index, as well as far greater funding to support the needs of English Learners and full funding for the needs of students with disabilities,” Arellano said. “While there’s much more to do, it’s gratifying and encouraging to see so many stakeholders who collectively agree that Michigan needs to address the longstanding inequities in education so that all students have the opportunity for an excellent public education.”
“State leaders should act urgently to fund these recommendations to support students with the greatest needs,” Jandernoa said. “Along with that, it’s essential to guarantee that any new dollars should be coupled with new systems of fiscal transparency and accountability for student outcomes. Michiganders deserve to have a greater say in and oversight over how their local schools spend their public dollars — and to have a guarantee that no less than 75 percent of every dollar invested in public schools is actually spent in the local school for which those dollars are designated.”
“These recommendations are an important next step to ensuring that Michigan can achieve its goal of being a Top Ten state for education,” he said. “Our students’ futures – and the health of our state – hang in the balance. Now is the time to act.”
In its recommendations, the Council called for designing a new funding formula for a next generation of PreK–12 schools that is adequate, equitable and efficient and aligned to the strategy for K–12 by:
- Fully funding special education and English language learner programs for students across the state and requiring that funding be used for the target groups and strategies intended;
- Providing additional funding to meet the broader needs of students from low-income families and schools with high concentrations of students in poverty by fully implementing the new Opportunity Index;
- Guaranteeing that all students, including those in remote and high-poverty areas, have access to the full set of services they need to thrive, such as English language support, extracurriculars, and higher-level classes;
- Considering capital expenditures an operating cost and funding them centrally so that schools across the state can equitably address repairs and provide students with great facilities conducive to learning;
- Providing districts with stable funding so that they can strategically plan long term, without disruptions from short-term shifts in enrollment.