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Coalition of business, labor groups hopes to move education policy past politics

June 26, 2018

Article courtesy MIRS News Service

*SBAM note: The Small Business Association of Michigan is a partner in the Launch Michigan coalition.*

A coalition of groups representing business, labor, education, and philanthropic organizations as well as state and community leaders announced last week the formation of a “Launch Michigan” campaign they hope will improve K-12 education “to help every student learn and succeed, regardless of the ZIP code they live in.”

The alliance, consisting of groups as diverse as Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) and AFT Michigan say they hope to meet over the summer enough to flesh out “a shared agenda” and have it in front of candidates and elected officials this fall. 

“The good news is we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We know what works. We know what’s successful. We know what the research says, what other states have done, that’s why we are excited about this unprecedented collaboration,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM, at a press conference at the Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing Wednesday. 

“One of the things we identified in other states when they were successful is they were united and they were consistent, and that is something that Michigan has not seen before from an education perspective. That is why Launch Michigan came together, so we could be a united and consistent voice when it comes to education,” said Jen Nelson, vice president of Public Policy and Economic Development at BLM. 

Coalition leaders noted inconsistency in government policy over the years, exacerbated by turnover of lawmakers due to term limits. 

“One of the things all of us up here would say is that in the past we have been too dependent in Michigan on, for example, whoever was governor, whoever was in legislative leadership as to what the education policy of the state has been. We are trying to make sure that that doesn’t happen again, that it is a collective effort. That’s what we are going to try to accomplish,” Rothwell said. 

The Launch Michigan goals will include: 
 

  • Supporting educators by leveraging existing research and using a statewide educator survey to guide its work. 
  • Supporting shared, statewide, research-driven strategies for delivering effective education to all students and sticking to those strategies beyond politics and election cycles. 
  • Supporting a fair and comprehensive accountability system that includes everyone who influences education, not just teachers. 
  • Working to ensure that resources are available to provide for an equitable, student-centered education system and funding model. 
  • Elevating public awareness and inspiring action about the current state of education in Michigan. 

Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, said members had to set aside past differences to form the coalition. 

“We all know that we are living in a divided time in our state and our country, but we all have worked together before and also know that there are a lot of issues that we do agree upon. We know that educators are critical. We know that we need more transparency with our data systems. We need to give parents a better idea and a more honest idea of how their schools are performing. We know that we need consistent standards. We know that we need a consistent system of public reporting and accountability. That might not sound like a lot, but that is actually an awful lot. We are tackling a pretty ambitious agenda to start and then we are going to keep exploring from there.” 

Wanda Cook-Robinson, superintendent of Oakland Schools, said the significance of the coalition is a commitment to see the work through. 

“We’ve already had several meetings and we started with where we agree. Believe it or not, it was a little bigger than this,” she said, holding her fingers about an inch apart. “But we are going to build on that until we get there. It is the commitment to see this through.” 

To see the full list of organizations in the coalition and for more information, visit LaunchMichigan.org.      

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