Dr. Michael F. Addonizio is a professor of Education Policy Studies and Charles H. Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Wayne State University. His teaching and research interests include public school finance, state and federal education policy, and the economics of education. Prior to joining WSU in 1994, he served as Education Policy Advisor to former Michigan Gov. John Engler and Assistant Michigan Superintendent for Research and Policy. He served on the Michigan Commission on Charter Schools from 2001 to 2002, and on the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren in 2015. Addonizio earned a Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan, and an A.B. in English from Holy Cross College.
Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, has been a tireless advocate for Detroit children for over two decades. She was the driving force behind the Foundation’s 10-year, $100 million Good Neighborhoods Initiative that sought to change life outcomes for children growing up in six Detroit neighborhoods. Allen has been deeply involved in the development and design of key education improvement strategies, including the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, Excellent Schools Detroit and Michigan Future Schools. Before joining the Skillman Foundation in 2004, Allen worked as a program officer for both the Charles Stewart Mott and Thompson-McCully foundations. She founded and was executive director of the Detroit Parent Network, an organization dedicated to improving educational options for children. Allen also led the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Rebuilding Communities Initiative in Detroit. She has received statewide and national recognition for her philanthropic work, including being named to the Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40 List” and receiving Rolling Stone Magazine’s Brick Award given to activists under age 30. Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degrees in social work and public health, all from the University of Michigan.
Amber Arellano is founding executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. Founded in 2010, Ed Trust-Midwest is widely recognized as a leading voice for non-partisan data, original analysis and research, policy expertise and now a statewide coalition dedicated to making Michigan a Top 10 state for all students. Under Arellano’s leadership, Ed Trust-Midwest led the coalition and original policy research that led to the legislative passage and cross-sector development of Michigan’s first statewide educator support and evaluation system. In partnership with the Steelcase Foundation, she also founded the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which has brought proven best practices from leading education states to West Michigan. A first-generation college graduate and former high school teacher, Arellano’s multi-sector career has been devoted to improving public education and opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds. She previously worked at the National Poverty Center and served as a Rackham Fellow at the University of Michigan, Ford School of Public Policy, where she earned her master’s degree in poverty and inequality policy. At the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Executive Office, she helped develop and execute cross-country public engagement campaigns. Before joining the policy sector, she earned accolades as a veteran journalist, covering education and race relations for the Detroit Free Press and later as a columnist for the Detroit News. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists named her Commentator of the Year for her “influential and crusading work on behalf of Michigan’s vulnerable students.” Arellano earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Michigan State University.
Dr. Brian D. Cherry teaches courses in state and local government, the politics of education, and public administration. Cherry’s research focus is on local government management and higher education. His recent works have appeared in the Journal of Public Affairs and State and Local Government Review. Cherry has served as Assistant Provost for Graduate Education and Research, Head of the Department of Political Science, and Director of the Master of Public Administration program, and co-founded the Center for Rural Economic and Community Development. He was elected to the Marquette Area Public Schools Board in 2010 and served for four years, and was re-elected to the board in 2016. Cherry holds an MPA and Ph.D. from Indiana State University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Southern Indiana.
Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, a lifelong educator, was appointed Superintendent of Oakland Schools in July 2015 after serving 14 months as the district’s Chief of Staff. Cook-Robinson supports the academic achievement of the 207,000 students in Oakland County’s 28 public school districts, charter schools and non-public schools. She is a former superintendent of Southfield Public Schools, where she oversaw increased student achievement, expanded opportunities for students and enhanced professional development. She was named 2013 “Michigan State Superintendent of the Year” by the Michigan Association of School Administrators. Cook-Robinson holds a Ph.D. in instructional technology and an Ed.S. in educational leadership from Wayne State University; a master’s degree in curriculum development and supervision from the University of Michigan; and a bachelor’s degree in special education from Michigan State University. She is the recipient of the 2017 Courage Award for Educational Excellence and Development from the Greater Pontiac Community Coalition.
Dr. Randall Eberts is president of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. The Institute is an independent, nonprofit research organization endowed in 1932 for the purpose of conducting and supporting research on policy relevant employment and regional economic issues. Before joining the Institute in September 1993, Eberts was assistant vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Prior to his position at the Cleveland Fed, he was an Associate Professor of economics at the University of Oregon and a visiting professor at Texas A&M University. From 1991 to 1992, Eberts served as senior staff economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He received a Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University. Eberts’ work on education focuses on determinants of student academic achievement, the effects of collective bargaining and educational policy on student performance, and the role of place-based strategies in improving education. Currently, he is evaluating various aspects of the Kalamazoo Promise, a place-based strategy to improve college access and to enhance local economic development. He has also researched extensively the effects of local workforce investment programs on the labor outcomes of workforce participants and on local labor markets.
Rob Fowler has been President and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan since 2003. Fowler is a registered lobbyist on behalf of SBAM, representing small business before the Michigan Legislature. Before coming to Michigan, Fowler was Executive Director of the Council of Smaller Enterprises in Cleveland from 1995 to 2000. He was previously a lobbyist for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Indiana Small Business Council. He serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations including MiQuest, Michigan’s leading entrepreneurial support organization, the National Small Business Association, and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which he chairs. He served on the Haslett Board of Education for 10 years after first being elected in 2004. He holds a degree in political science from Ball State University, where he serves on the National Development Council.
Matt Gillard joined Michigan’s Children in 2014, and oversees all of the organization’s programs and operations. From 2002 to 2008, he served in the Michigan House of Representatives representing the 106th District. He served in leadership roles in the Democratic Caucus and within the state appropriations process, including Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Chair of the K-12 School Aid Budget, and Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee. He went on to provide policy development, legislative and advocacy services to organizations focused on early childhood issues before joining Michigan’s Children. He received his law degree from Wayne State University and bachelor’s degree from Albion College. Gillard lives in East Lansing with his wife, Jessica, and their four children, Gracie, Joel, Gus and Pearl.
Gilda Z. Jacobs has served as President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy since 2011, following a 30-year career in public service at the local, county and state levels. She served in the state Senate for eight years after serving two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives, where she made history as the first woman floor leader in either chamber of the Legislature. She has won numerous awards for her work, including being named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan by Crain’s Detroit Business in 2016, and the Michigan Food Bank Council’s Hunger-Free Award in 2015. She has also worked as a special education teacher in the Madison School District. Jacobs received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.
Rick Johnson was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1998, representing the residents of Osceola, Wexford and Mecosta counties, and was re-elected as House Speaker for the 2003-2004 legislative session. Johnson served on the Pine River School Board from 1980 to 1986, and was an Osceola County commissioner from 1986 to 1994, including five years as chair. From 1994 to 1998, he was a Michigan Farm Bureau State Board member. Johnson is a lifelong resident and farmer in Osceola County, where he owns and operates his family’s nursery and tree farm. He graduated with honors from Pine River High School in LeRoy in 1971. He is the only state legislator who has received the Consortium for School Networking Award.