Equity Advocates Letter to Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction
May 12, 2020
As advocates for equitable access and opportunities in public education, we appreciate the difficult decisions that you, the Michigan Department of Education and Governor Whitmer have made to protect the health and wellbeing of Michigan students and communities.
The coronavirus has had a far-reaching and devastating impact on educational opportunities for students from low-income families, students of color and other underserved student groups. Given these impacts and the wide gaps in opportunity and access for these students, we urge the MDE to remain focused on equity as decisions are made in the coming weeks, particularly around the spending of federal CARES Act dollars.
Limited federal regulations around CARES Act funding present an important opportunity to invest in the students hit the hardest by COVID-19, continuing to focus on the priorities identified by the Governor’s fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 executive budget recommendations. Prioritizing equity during this time of fiscal restraint will be especially critical as student needs are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and our population of students living in poverty will likely grow.
Specifically, as approximately $400 million in CARES Act Funding is distributed, we urge the MDE to:
Ensure measurement, oversight and accountability for spending. During the current crisis, everyone is working with very limited information and without the benefit of prior experience. As every stakeholder strives to make the best decisions possible, we should do everything we can to better position ourselves the next time there is a disruption to learning. Plans developed by schools and districts should be publicly available and include specific measurables. A common, unified interim assessment system should be deployed across the state to understand student learning levels in the fall. Finally, the MDE should require reporting on the use of funds and related outcomes, to better understand how current dollars were leveraged and to inform future efforts.
Promote equity by requiring the distribution of funds to districts and tools using the Title I formula. The MDE should requires ISDs to distribute CARES Act funding to local districts and schools utilizing the same Title I formula that is being used to calculate and distribute federal dollars to states and ISDs. This will help further educational equity by directing resources to the schools directly responsible for educating students from low-income families.
Focus immediate and future planning and spending on structural improvements. Past federal stimulus dollars have been spent on short-term needs that far too often have disappeared as federal funding ran out. This time, Michigan should focus on leveraging funds to create lasting improvements. For example, providing professional learning and development to ensure digital resources can be used to support all students will create lasting change for students who are benefiting from expanded device and broadband access.
Expanding learning opportunities for most impacted communities. Nearly all Michigan students will need additional support after the pandemic passes. From high-quality summer learning institutes over multiple years, to restructured school calendars, adaptive active learning tools and additional in-school supports, districts will be charged with making up for learning losses. Using federal stimulus dollars to target high-poverty districts will help address the gaps exacerbated as a result of this crisis.
Michigan’s most vulnerable students are at the greatest risk for the greatest loss. By targeting resources to address continued learning now and in the coming years, we can begin to chip away at the systemic inequities to prevent them from persisting for another generation of students. By insisting on transparency and accountability, the struggles of this moment can inform and improve strategies moving forward.
We look forward to your continued partnership in advancing equitable access and opportunities for Michigan’s students.
Alice G. Thompson, Chief Executive Officer
Black Family Development, Inc.
Jametta Lilly, Chief Executive Officer
Detroit Parent Network
David E. Meador, Vice Chairman & Chief Administrative Officer
Amber Arellano, Executive Director
Monique Marks, President & CEO
Franklin Wright Settlements, Inc.
Deidre Bounds, President
Ignite Social Media
Adnoris ‘Bo’ Torres, Executive Director
Hispanic Center of Western Michigan
Dr. Holly Windram, Executive Director
Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps
Nicole Wells Stallworth, President
MacDowell Preparatory Academy
Board of Directors
Ken Whipple, Chairman
Michigan Achieves! Leadership Council
Lisa Knight, Vice President &
Chief Program Officer
Urban League of West Michigan
Mike Jandernoa, Founder & Chairman
42 North Partners