Members of Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity Urge Legislators, Budget Director to Invest in Students with Greatest Needs

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313Reads co-authored an open letter with other members of the Michigan Partnership for Equity & Opportunity to urge legislators to provide equitable funding for the state’s underserved communities.

Read the letter in full below:

Dear Director Harkins, Sen. Stamas and Rep. Albert:

We are members of the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity: a coalition of civil rights, civic
and business leaders working to promote educational fairness for all Michigan students, especially the
most underserved. Our diverse, bipartisan table includes individual members as well as organizations
from across the political spectrum. Our vision is to see Michigan as a national leader in public education,
where all children achieve at high levels, regardless of race, gender, disability, family income, native
language, or geography.

What brings us together is a shared set of values that leave no student behind. This includes a relentless
focus on closing achievement and opportunity gaps by ensuring every student has access and
opportunity to the educational resources and support that they need to achieve, from pre-K through

To achieve this goal, every student deserves funding that is sufficient to support their unique needs.
Michigan must invest in public education and commit to supporting students who have been
underserved for decades. The biggest increases in funding should go to students with the greatest needs
and funding intended for high-needs students must be spent on services for those students.

We are also committed to transparency and accountability. Student learning should be assessed and
publicly reported so that parents, educators, and policymakers can ensure resources are directed where
they are needed most. Every student should be supported through an accountability system that is easy
to understand, focused first on student learning and outcomes, and is regularly updated to inform the

We have been closely following the budget this year and appreciate the challenging work that you and
your colleagues have taken on. We know that you share a commitment to improving our schools and
providing students with the resources they need to achieve. With revenue estimates coming in close to
$1 billion above what was expected, there is a real chance to close the opportunity and achievement
gap by ensuring these dollars go to our most underserved populations, including at-risk students, English
learners, students with disabilities and students in rural districts. It is important to note that these
students live in every region of the state and come from all demographics. Unfortunately, Michigan
currently ranks among the worst states when it comes to fairly funding these students.

Now is the time to begin investing and creating a more level playing field. Although Michigan is one of
many states that targets some additional dollars for at-risk students, Michigan’s weight of 11.5% is
among the lowest in the country. The story gets worse because historically, Michigan has not even fully
funded the line item at 11.5%. Instead, the percentage lags around 9% in recent budgets. By comparison
Maryland is phasing in a weight of 73% and Massachusetts is set to increase their weight up to 105%.
Our long-term goal is to increase the weighted formula to provide consistent resources. In the
immediate future, we are advocating $600 million of the unexpected revenue be placed into at-risk
funding. This will begin to address the long-term systematic underfunding.

Funding for English learners is also severely underfunded. Michigan only allocates a maximum of 11% of
the foundation allowance to help address the needs of these students. This is the lowest weight in the
country. By comparison Georgia provides up to 156% and Maryland provides 85%. Our long-term goal is
to increase the weighted formula comparable to that of other states. We advocate using new revenue
to double the current level of funding to $50 million and using that amount as the baseline moving into
future budgets.

Special education has long been underfunded despite the requirements to provide services. According
to the Michigan Department of Education, special education is only being funded at 77%. On average,
$488 dollars of every per pupil foundation is used to cover the shortfall. Our long-term goal is to fully
fund special education which would cost an additional $700 million yearly. Michigan has taken steps
recently to reimburse districts for some of these costs. We advocate continuing this reimbursement and
raising this amount to $300 million for the current year.

Another area that creates inequality is the higher cost of transportation born by rural school districts.
According to a report issued by Michigan State University, transportation costs can be as high as $973
per student. This cost is only going to increase as the cost of fuel continues to increase, taking away
resources that could be used in the classroom. We advocate spending $50 million in new revenue to
specifically address rural transportation costs.

We appreciate your time and attention to these crucial matters. With unprecedented resources, now is
the time to change course and begin prioritizing spending that meets the needs of our most
underserved students.


  • Amber Arellano, Executive Director Education Trust Midwest
  • Robert Dorigo Jones, Vice President Michigan’s Children
  • Deidre Lambert-Bounds, President Ignite Social Media
  • Rachel Richards, Fiscal Policy Director Michigan League for Public Policy
  • Dr. Leah Van Belle, Executive Director 313Reads
  • Erika VanDyke, Program Officer Grand Rapids Community Foundation
  • Mike Jandernoa, Founder 42 North Partners
  • Mike Jandernoa, Founder New Detroit
  • Jametta Lilly, CEO Detroit Parent Network
  • Holly Windram, Executive Director Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps
  • Alice G. Thompson, CEO BFDI Education Services
  • Maha Freij, President & CEO ACCESS
  • David E. Meador, Vice Chair DTE (retired),Autism Alliance, Detroit and Michigan Workforce Board, State, Regional and Detroit Economic Development
  • Ben Locke, Michigan State Director Tech Plus
  • Ken Whipple, Retired Chairman and CEO CMS Energy MI Achieves Leadership Council