By Brian Gutman, Education Trust Midwest
Every Michigan student – regardless of race, family income or disability status – deserves access to a high-quality education. Yet data on how well Michigan prepares students tells a very different story. As The Education Trust-Midwest has highlighted for years, across the board, Michigan students are far behind their peers.
This is why the opportunity to develop a new plan for public education under the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was so exciting. Under ESSA, each state department of education was required to develop a new plan for improving educational quality for every group of students. Yet instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to learn from the successes of leading education states and chart a new path, Michigan has largely squandered this opportunity.
The ESSA plan, originally submitted in spring 2016, was widely criticized for inadequately addressing the needs of Michigan students. Critiques came from equity-minded advocates, a bipartisan panel of educational experts, and even from state leaders, including Governor Rick Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. Despite broad agreement on the plan’s shortcomings – including around accountability, the under cutting of groups of students and failing to set unambitious goals – weaknesses have largely gone unaddressed. Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave approval to the plan.
Public education in Michigan is in crisis and we will only improve when we address that reality. Michigan students deserve no less.
Every day, The Education Trust-Midwest stands up for kids of color, low-income students and other vulnerable student groups.
Over the last year, we have joined together with a wide range of civil rights organizations, business associations and community-based organizations to insist that equity was a strong part of the state’s education plan. Arm in arm with national partners, we’ve stood up for DREAMers, who are Americans in every way except on paper. We spoke out against bigotry and hatred when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville and campuses across the country. Our research was used to inform members of Congress as they considered presidential appointments. And we have continued to insist that every Michigan student have access to a high-quality education.
Just last week, we stood up for students when U.S. Secretary of Education approved the Michigan Department of Education’s plan, despite it failing to meet the needs of Michigan students, parents, teachers and schools. And we will continue to insist that every Michigan student have access to a high-quality education.
As the end of the year approaches, we hope that you will consider standing up for equity and with Michigan students. Your tax-deductible donation helps continue The Education Trust-Midwest’s policy research, practice work and advocacy in P-12 education. Thank you for your generosity.