Seven Decades after Brown: Devastating Inequities, Unfair School Funding – and Reasons for Hope

New Report Findings Underscore Need for Fair Funding and Investment in Michigan’s Schools; Leaders Across State Join Together for Urgent Call to Action and New Campaign

Contact: Jennifer Mrozowski, APR, (248) 320-1037

DETROIT (May 15, 2024) – Seven decades after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, Michigan students of color continue to face devastating educational inequities in deeply under-resourced public schools. Today, they are far more likely to be enrolled in Michigan public schools with the highest concentrations of poverty, where they are more likely, on average, to face vastly different opportunities than do their affluent White peers in the state’s wealthiest school districts, according to the newly-released 2024 State of Michigan Education Report, Brown’s Hope: Fulfilling the Promise in Michigan, by The Education Trust-Midwest.

Today diverse leaders across the state are launching a new campaign to call attention to not only decades of neglect to Black, Latino/a students, and students from low-income backgrounds — and the resources and supports their public schools need and deserve — but also to the urgent need to address profound pandemic learning losses that students who are underserved were especially hard hit by.

“At an urgent moment in the lives of Michigan students, this is a strong call to action for state leaders to invest in the very students who have been neglected for decades,” said Alice Thompson, the Detroit Branch of the NAACP’s chair of the education committee and one of the tri-chairs of the statewide coalition, Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO). “This new campaign gives hope and a direction for change — and provides new data to empower local parents and advocates to work together to advance an investment and pandemic recovery agenda for Michigan’s children.”

“For decades, Michigan did not have a mechanism to address the legacy of racial and socio-economic segregation in our state’s public schools. Today, we do – and we have a responsibility to use it,” said Amber Arellano, Executive Director of the non-partisan Education Trust-Midwest and a tri-chair for the MPEO statewide coalition. “This month, state legislators can do just that by investing fairly in the state’s new Opportunity Index, a historic new funding change that became law in 2023.”

The new Opportunity for All campaign includes a publicly accessible website, where Michiganders can compare how much more their local school district would receive if the state invested in students from low-income backgrounds at the same level as Massachusetts, the nation’s leading education state. The campaign’s new website also offers new tools to allow Michiganders to see the difference it would make in their own local school districts if Michigan fully funded its current long-term goals for investing in students from low-income backgrounds.

Among the findings cited in the new report:

  • This year nearly half of all Michigan students of color and two-thirds of all Black students in Michigan attend public school in districts with high concentrations of poverty where 73% or more of the students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to only 13% of Michigan’s White students learning in those same school districts.
  • Michigan students in districts with the highest concentrations of poverty are much less likely to be in classrooms with highly experienced teachers who are, on average, more likely to be effective. Research shows that teachers are the single most important in-school factor related to student success, highlighting the critical need for effective teachers in all classrooms.
  • School funding disparities undermine higher-poverty districts’ capacity to support their students’ educational recovery from the pandemic. Had Michigan returned to its 2006 school funding levels by 2016, our state would have invested 20 percent more — or $22 billion dollars more — on K-12 public education between 2016 and 2021. High-poverty districts bear the brunt of that lack of investment.
  • School-aged children across the state have lost roughly half of a grade or more in math and reading since the pandemic’s start.
  • In school districts that serve predominantly Black and Latino/a students and students from low-income backgrounds, such as Kalamazoo and Lansing, learning losses were dramatically worse.
  • At the current pace of educational recovery, most students would need an additional five years to catch up in math – and in reading, most Michigan students would need decades to read on grade level, according to research from the Education Recovery Scorecard.

“This month, state legislators are deciding what to prioritize in the state budget,” Arellano said. “Michigan is underfunding students from low-income backgrounds by at least $2 billion annually. In comparison, today Massachusetts is on track to invest at least $3.3 billion annually in its students from low-income backgrounds. Money matters, especially for low-income students.”

The legislature passed the new Opportunity Index funding structure in 2023, which has garnered national attention for its research-based innovation to addressing longstanding inequities. However, it did not allocate dollars to fully fund the new formula.

“We are at an urgent moment in our state’s history,” said Mike Jandernoa, a west Michigan business leader who is founder & chairman, 42 North Partners and a tri-chair of the MPEO.  “For the future of Michigan’s children and the health of our state, state leaders should invest now in students who have been long underserved to address these long-standing inequities. And coupled with investments, we need to create systems of fiscal transparency and accountability to ensure that the dollars intended for students with the greatest needs actually reach them in their schools.”

According to a new analysis in the report, Michigan’s regions that will benefit most by the Opportunity Index funding formula, in respective order, are towns and suburbs, midsized and small cities, rural areas, and finally, large urban areas. The Index invests in districts based on its level of concentration of poverty.

The Opportunity for All campaign aims to take what most people consider a mysterious topic — school finance — and make it an accessible and radically more transparent issue that all Michiganders can dig into. The new website allows anyone to see the impact of state policymakers’ investment decisions on students from low-income backgrounds. They can also see the impact of those investments on their local public-school districts and thus, on children’s lives and in their local communities.

Additional research highlighted in the report and website that supports the need for greater investment includes:

  • While the worst times of the pandemic have receded, the impact lingers for students throughout Michigan in key subjects. Students in districts including Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Detroit lost 75% of a grade level or more in math, compounding our state’s troubling inequities.
  • 31% of Michigan students were chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year, meaning they missed at least 10% of the school year.
  • Michigan ranks 43rd in the nation for 4th grade reading – an important predictor of a child’s future academic success and life outcomes – on the 2022 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP). For students from low-income backgrounds, Michigan ranks as the 11th worst state in 4th grade reading, falling far below the national average.




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