In her State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reinforced her commitment to Michigan’s struggling public schools—a goal that the League shares.
The state’s first task should be a laser-like focus on the educational barriers faced by the growing number of Michigan students who are considered economically disadvantaged. As of the 2017-18 school year, the majority (51%) of the state’s students are economically disadvantaged because they are eligible for free- or reduced-price schools meals; receive food, income or certain medical assistance; or are homeless, migrant or in foster care.
Even more concerning is the concentration of economic disadvantage among children of color. Nearly 8 out of every 10 African American students in Michigan are economically disadvantaged, along with 7 of every 10 Latinx children. And, on most measures of educational success—including third-grade reading—students from families with low incomes and children of color are falling behind their peers
These disparities in educational outcomes do not happen in a vacuum. They are related to policies both past and present that created income inequality and housing segregation. Income and racial disparities could be further exacerbated by current policies—including the new state law that allows for the retention of children who are not reading proficiently by third grade–if lawmakers fail to provide the additional resources schools need to overcome the barriers to learning that many children face.
As we prepare for the Governor’s first state budget, the League is advocating for a focus on education from cradle to career, including:
- Access to high-quality child care
- Early intervention for children with developmental delays
- Preschool programs available for all children in families with low incomes
- Resources to ensure that all children are reading by third grade
- Additional state funding for K-12 students with high needs or in high-poverty communities
- Access to adult education
- State funding to help high school graduates who are older go back to school
We hope you will join us as we work to ensure that a high-quality education is the path to equity for the children of Michigan.