Letter: There’s no doubt Michigan has education crisis

Richard Zeile, co-president of the State Board of Education of Michigan, said “no” in a Sept. 14 column, “Is there an education crisis in Michigan?” Unfortunately, what I have observed in my own research and that of many others is that Michigan’s academic stagnation — and decline in comparison to the rest of the nation — is a real and direct threat to our state and our children’s futures.

The column suggested that Michigan’s performance on the NAEP is just below average, citing that Michigan’s scores are “5 points or less from the mean.” But five points on a single NAEP assessment translates to about a half-year of learning. In 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade math, Michigan students performed significantly below the national public average in 2015, the most recent year of data. The three- to five-point difference between our students’ average scores and the nation’s means Michigan students have learned 30 to 50 percent less of a year’s worth of content than students on average nationally.

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Education experts talk funding, performance

With studies showing inequities in Michigan’s school funding and state testing showing declines in reading, writing and science, about 100 people turned out Monday in Canton for a town hall-style meeting on public education.

The forum, hosted by state Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton, featured a quartet of panelists and covered issues ranging from student achievement and public school funding to charter schools and a shortage of teachers.

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School funding data: Step One

In a recent Mining Journal interview, Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan should expand Career and Technical Education opportunities, such as computer-aided design, engineering and welding in Michigan’s public schools. Without question, these skills open a world of potential career options for our students, including those not bound for a four-year college.

But what would it cost to provide Career and Technical Education to all Michigan students, regardless of their location, income, learning challenges or other circumstances?

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PRESS RELEASE: Longtime Flint community leader joins School Finance Research Collaborative

Isaiah Oliver, former Flint Community Schools Board of Education President, brings expertise in preparing students for bright futures to school funding group

FLINT Mich. — Isaiah Oliver, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and former Flint Community Schools Board of Education President, has joined the School Finance Research Collaborative, the school funding group announced today.

“This is an exciting opportunity to bring the voice of the entire Flint community, including its most precious asset — Flint’s children — to the School Finance Research Collaborative as we take a long, hard look at how we fund Michigan’s public schools,” Oliver said. “It’s clear in Flint, and across the entire state that our current school funding system is failing our kids and must be fixed. We must consider the unique needs and challenges of students from all corners of the Mitten as we reexamine how we finance our schools to help all students achieve and succeed.”

Oliver, born and raised in Flint, helps residents, businesses and organizations contribute directly to Flint-area causes in greatest need at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Oliver was previously the foundation’s Vice President of Community Impact. He served five years on the Flint Community Schools Board of Education, including two years as board president, and four years on the Hurley Medical Center Board of Managers. Oliver also has extensive experience in higher education, having served as Associate Administrator for Workforce, Community and Grant Development at Mott Community College.

“Having experienced first-hand the challenges Flint’s public school students face, Isaiah Oliver will bring an essential perspective to the School Finance Research Collaborative as we seek the best and most reliable information on what it truly costs to educate all students,” said Heather Morolla Kale, General Manager of the Ferris Wheel Innovation Center in Flint, and a Collaborative Advisory Committee member.

Oliver, a graduate of Flint Northwestern High School, earned his bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University. He is immediate past president of the Flint Alumni Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and an active member of numerous other community organizations. He and his wife, Shay, live in Flint with their daughters, Zaiah, Carrington and Chelyn.
The School Finance Research Collaborative is a broad-based and diverse 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 determine the cost of providing a high-quality public school education to all Michigan students, regardless of their circumstances.

The Collaborative is supporting a school adequacy study using multiple methodologies which is now underway. The study, expected to be completed in early 2018, 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