Letter: Research must precede school reforms

Michigan public school educators, students and parents have navigated a maze of confusing, sometimes contradictory school reforms in recent years.

I applaud Detroit News columnist Ingrid Jacques for clearly making this argument in her May 11 column, “Stop the school reform merry-go-round.”

The key missing ingredient in this critical discussion is comprehensive, reliable and accurate data that tell us what it truly costs to educate all public school students. Financial data and experience acknowledges children with different needs many times require additional funding.

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Another study aims to figure out how much it costs to educate a child in Michigan

This will be the second so-called adequacy study to try to figure out the cost of educating a child in Michigan.

The state paid $399,000 for the first Michigan Education Finance Study. It was published last year and tried to figure out the base cost of educating a child by looking at the most successful districts in the state. The state, in commissioning the study, chose the “successful schools” model approach to the study and defined success as those districts that “have proficiency levels above the state average for all of the standards under the Michigan Merit Standards.”

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Study first step in developing right funding strategy for Michigan schools

Michigan needs a long-term, research-based plan that provides all students with a clear path toward success, whether that means college or entering the workforce after graduation.

In his recent column, “Time to play the long game with Detroit schools,” Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson made the case for long-term student performance goals in the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

We also need to play the “long game” in terms of providing a high-quality education to all Michigan public school students, as we continue to fall behind other states across the country in student achievement.

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PRESS RELEASE: Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce official, child advocate joins school funding group committee

Flint native Heather Morolla Kale brings business, child advocacy background to the School Finance Research Collaborative

FLINT, Mich. – Heather Morolla Kale, a Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce official and longtime advocate for Genesee County children and families, has joined the School Finance Research Collaborative Advisory Committee, the Collaborative announced today.

“Working with Flint’s most vulnerable young people, I’ve seen firsthand how a high-quality public school education makes all the difference in helping students of all backgrounds and challenges achieve and succeed,” said Kale, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Member Services, and a Flint native. “As a part of the Chamber’s leadership, I see the dire need to connect student talent with the demands businesses face across Michigan. I look forward to lending my experience and expertise in both arenas to the Collaborative Advisory Committee.”

Kale was previously director of The Carrera Program, a teen pregnancy prevention program. She was also Director of Communications and Outreach for Priority Children, an organization that advocates for the health and wellbeing of Genesee County children. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Gear Up 2 Lead and the YWCA of Greater Flint.

“Heather represents both ends of the talent attraction and retention spectrum – students in need of an education that prepares them for college and careers, and the business community that relies on our public schools to produce that talent,” said Doug Maibach, Chairman of the Barton Malow Enterprises Board of Directors and Executive Vice President of Barton Malow Co. “We are fortunate to have her on board to help us bridge that talent divide so all students are prepared for the competitive 21st century workforce.”

Kale has a master’s degree in public relations from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of Michigan-Flint.

The School Finance Research Collaborative is a broad-based group of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, business leaders and education experts from Metro Detroit to the U.P. who agree it’s time to change the way Michigan’s schools are funded.

The Collaborative is bringing together top industry experts to reexamine the state’s approach to funding K-12 schools to ensure all students are fully prepared for college and careers, from the inner cities to the suburbs, to rural areas and the U.P.

The Collaborative is supporting a school adequacy study using multiple methodologies which is now underway. The study will provide policymakers with the best, most complete and most accurate information on what it truly costs to educate all Michigan public school students.

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For media inquiries, contact Christopher Behnan, Byrum & Fisk Communications, at (517) 333-1606, ext. 1

Letter: Step 1 in school reform is funding research

As the Detroit News accurately pointed out in a recent editorial, “School reform lacks unified vision, April 22,” ever-changing public education policy has led to a dizzying array of information for policymakers, local school boards, educators and parents to sift through.

The first step toward achieving that unified vision is an independent, bipartisan look at how we fund Michigan’s public schools so every student, regardless of his or her background, has the opportunity to become college and career ready.

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MICHIGAN: It’s Time for Comprehensive School Funding Research

The School Finance Research Collaborative, a broad-based, bipartisan group of business and education experts from metro Detroit to the Upper Peninsula, applauds the recent call for school funding research in Gov. Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Education Commission Report.

It’s never been clearer—the way we fund Michigan’s schools is broken, and we must
reexamine our approach so all students can achieve and succeed.

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PRESS RELEASE: National education experts selected to reexamine how Michigan’s public schools are funded

Two nationally renowned firms join forces to take a fresh look at how we fund our schools to serve all students

LANSING, Mich. – Two nationally renowned firms have been selected to conduct a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive school funding study in Michigan that will examine how our state’s public schools are financed, the School Finance Research Collaborative announced today.

“We look forward to taking a fresh look at how Michigan funds its public schools so that all students, no matter their circumstances or challenges, can achieve and succeed in the workforce of tomorrow,” said Bob Palaich of Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA), the Colorado-based firm leading the study. “We are approaching this project without any political or preconceived notions to find out what it truly costs to provide a high-quality education to all Michigan public school students.”

APA is already familiar with Michigan’s school funding challenges: The firm conducted the taxpayer-funded Michigan Education Finance Study of 2016, on which the new study will build. California-based Picus, Odden & Associates (POA), will also play a key role in the research.

Working together, the two firms will conduct a school funding adequacy study. Adequacy studies help determine what it costs to educate all students, with adjustments made for students with special needs and school districts with unique challenges. The two firms have the most extensive experience nationally in conducting adequacy studies and assisting policymakers to refine their funding systems. Further, two of the four commonly used methodologies for adequacy studies were developed by APA and POA.

The new study is expected to be completed by January of 2018, and will provide policymakers with the best, most complete and most accurate information on the true costs of educating all Michigan public school students.

The new study will use multiple methodologies to examine how Michigan’s schools are funded, something that has never been done in the Great Lakes State. From 2003 to 2014, 25 states conducted adequacy studies. In 23 of the 25 states, multiple methodologies were used.

The new study will use the following methodologies:

Professional Judgment method: Top education experts identify human resources and operating expenses needed to ensure all students can meet all state standards.

Evidence-Based method: Academic research on student performance is used to identify needed resources to meet all state standards.

The report will incorporate findings of the state’s taxpayer-funded study. The Michigan Education Finance Study used the Successful School Districts method, which determines adequacy by examining the level of resources available to districts currently meeting certain performance standards.

The research team will create 19 panels made up of 220 Michigan education experts to inform their work. The panels will include a diverse range of educators, including teachers, specialists, principals, superintendents and special education directors, and experts in the following areas: technology, career and technical education, English Language Learners and early childhood education.

There will be a special panel on charter schools, the first time for a statewide study. The researchers will also establish special panels on poverty; preschool; small, medium and large school districts; and geographically isolated districts. Additional panels will focus on special needs students including English language learners, at-risk students, career and technical education.

The new statewide study is being initially funded by a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation made to the Oakland Schools Education Foundation.

The School Finance Research Collaborative, a diverse, broad-based group of business and education experts from all corners of Michigan, is directing the study. The Collaborative selected the team of APA and POA, the two top school finance research firms in the country, to examine the state’s approach to funding K-12 schools to ensure all students are fully prepared for college and careers, from the inner cities to the suburbs, to rural areas and the U.P.

“We are truly fortunate to have two of the most experienced school funding research firms in the country on board for this landmark, comprehensive research effort in Michigan,” said Dr. Michael Addonizio, Professor of Education Policy Studies at Wayne State University and a Collaborative member. “As a career educator, I am excited to see the research team’s expertise and experience put into action as we reexamine school funding to benefit all Michigan students.”

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For media inquiries, contact Christopher Behnan, Byrum & Fisk Communications, at (517) 333-1606, ext. 1