Launch Michigan unveils education agenda


A panel of state business, education, civic and philanthropic leaders unveiled its vision for strengthening education in Michigan and outlined the first phase of recommendations for doing so.

Launch Michigan, which formed last year, includes such organizations as Business Leaders for Michigan, Kent ISD, Michigan Department of Education, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Steelcase Foundation, Talent 2025 and The Education Trust-Midwest, among multiple others. The group was formed to tackle the state’s declining education outcomes and its relation to the talent shortage.

The group will work to implement its agenda starting in 2020.

The Launch Michigan coalition chose three core priorities to underlie all its work: preparing graduates, ensuring rapid improvement and closing equity gaps.

“As a state, we’ve been focused on picking winners and losers in the education system. We must turn our intentions to producing winners and winners, making targeted and equitable investments so all Michigan children can achieve their highest aspirations,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation and co-chair of Launch Michigan.

Historically, new Michigan education policies have shifted too much too quickly; instead, the steering committee says it seeks to build a solid foundation through a multiphased, tiered approach that focuses on the most acute challenges first.

During the first phase of its work, Launch Michigan plans to focus on boosting elementary literacy and providing all children with quality teachers. Literacy is a fundamental building block for much of the other learning that takes place in a person’s lifetime, which is why this was the coalition’s first area of focus.

The group’s suggested Equity in Literacy fund would provide additional support to early readers in grades K-3.

“The fund will help tackle Michigan’s literacy challenges while providing additional support to students living in poverty, as well as those who are geographically isolated,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and co-chair of Launch Michigan.

The Equity in Literacy fund would be accompanied by district-driven strategic planning requirements to ensure dollars are being allocated to areas of greatest need and are tied to evidence-based research and practice.

Rothwell said the additional funding is essential to boost student results over time, particularly for children with greater needs.

“As a coalition, we support a student-centered, weighted funding formula that allocates resources to children based on their unique needs and circumstances,” Rothwell said. “We can’t hope to create a world-class educational system while we continue to underinvest in Michigan’s schools.”

Launch Michigan pointed to a March 2019 survey of 17,000 Michigan educators that identified additional literacy resources as a critical gap in their schools.

The committee is working to develop specific statutory language to implement the Equity in Literacy fund during the 2020 legislative cycle. The group intends to push its recommendations as soon as possible, putting the full support of the entire steering committee behind the suggested policies.

The group says it will continue to devise specific strategies on how to carry out its vision over the long term.

Steering committee co-chairs

Tonya Allen, The Skillman Foundation

Paula Herbart, Michigan Education Association

Doug Rothwell, Business Leaders for Michigan


Steering committee members

Amber Arellano, The Education Trust Midwest

Rick Baker, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Baruah, Detroit Regional Chamber

Tim Daman, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce

Darienne Driver Hudson, United Way for Southeastern Michigan

Rob Fowler, Small Business Association of Michigan

David Hecker, American Federation of Teachers-Michigan

Ron Koehler, The School Finance Research Collaborative

Bill Miller, Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators

Dan Quisenberry, Michigan Association of Public School Academies

Michael Rice, Michigan Department of Education

Julie Ridenour, Steelcase Foundation

Joe Scantlebury, Council of Michigan Foundations

Kevin Stotts, Talent 2025

Ray Telman, Middle Cities Education Association

Chris Wigent, Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators

Don Wotruba, Michigan Association of School Boards

The Michigan Parent Teacher Association

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