PRESS RELEASE: Renowned advocate for Detroit children joins School Finance Research Collaborative

Skillman Foundation CEO Tonya Allen brings experience serving city’s underserved students in taking a fresh look at public school funding

DETROIT, Mich.Tonya Allen, President and CEO of the Skillman Foundation and a recognized tireless advocate for Detroit and the city’s undeserved children, has joined the School Finance Research Collaborative, the Collaborative announced today.

“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to bring the voice of Detroit’s children, particularly those facing economic, social and other hardships, to the School Finance Research Collaborative as we take a fresh look at how we fund Michigan’s public schools,” Allen said. “It’s clear in Detroit that the way we fund our schools is broken and must be revamped to serve students in all corners of the Mitten, regardless of their circumstances. It is critical that the voices of all Michigan students, from the inner cities to the suburbs, to our rural areas and the U.P., are heard as we reexamine how we fund our schools so all students can achieve and succeed.”

For two decades, Allen has led innovative, results-driven plans to improve her native Detroit and its public schools. At the Skillman Foundation, she has helped develop and design key education improvement strategies, including Excellent Schools Detroit, Michigan Future Schools and the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren. She was the driving force behind the 10-year, $100 million Good Neighborhoods Initiative, a program that works toward positive change in Detroit’s neighborhoods.

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.

“Tonya Allen’s commitment and passion for the education of children speaks for itself and has for a long time,” said Jim Stapleton, Detroit area businessman, Regent Emeritus at Eastern Michigan University and a member of the Collaborative. “To have her lend her incredible reputation to our effort only speaks to the importance of the work we’re doing.”

Allen 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. She was named a Detroit News Michiganian of the Year in 2015, a Crain’s Detroit Business “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2015 and one of the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “5 Nonprofit Innovators to Watch” in 2013.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degrees in social work and public health, all from the University of Michigan.

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 reexamine the state’s approach to funding K-12 schools to ensure all Michigan public school students are fully prepared for college and careers.

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.


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