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Historic Panel of State Leaders Recommend Strategies for MI Educational Results

December 19, 2019

SBAM CEO Rob Fowler is a member of the Launch Michigan Steering Committee. He says, “I think the business community and other stakeholders in the quality of education in Michigan have come to the realization that our term-limited legislature is at a disadvantage when it comes to complex policy issues with long term strategies. So, the stakeholders convened the conversation and we are now delivering to the legislature and the Governor the first phase of a long term plan.”

DETROIT (Dec. 18, 2019) – A diverse panel of state business, education, civic and philanthropic leaders today unveiled their vision for providing stronger learning opportunities to all Michigan children, and outlined a set of phase one recommendations for making that vision a reality.

Today’s announcement kicks off an agenda for change to begin taking shape during 2020.

“As a state we’ve been focused on picking winners and losers in the education system. We must turn our intentions to producing winners and winners, making targeted and equitable investments so all Michigan children can achieve their highest aspirations,” said Tonya Allen, Launch Michigan co-chair and president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation.

Launch Michigan team members have chosen three simple core priorities to underlie all its work: (i) preparing graduates, (ii) ensuring rapid improvement, and (iii) closing equity gaps. 

“These priorities are going to give us a solid framework for change,” said Launch Michigan co-chair Paula Herbart, who serves as president of the Michigan Education Association. “From here, we can develop a strong, phased-in approach that will deliver results for all our state’s learners over time.”

During the first phase of its work, Launch Michigan plans to focus on boosting elementary literacy and providing all children with the great teachers they deserve.

“We’re introducing a new ‘Equity in Literacy’ fund this year, which will provide additional support to early readers in grades K–3,” said co-chair Doug Rothwell, who also serves as president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “The fund will help tackle Michigan’s literacy challenges while providing additional support to students living in poverty, as well as those who are geographically isolated.”

The Equity in Literacy fund will be accompanied by district-driven strategic planning requirements, to ensure dollars are being allocated to areas of greatest need and are tied to evidence-based research and practice.

“Together, we have come to recognize the essential link between funding and accountability,” Herbart said. “It’s important to ensure all dollars spent are maximized in ways that can demonstrate measurable growth in student achievement.”

Rothwell said the additional funding is essential to boost student results over time, particularly for children with greater needs.

“As a coalition, we support a student-centered, weighted funding formula that allocates resources to children based on their unique needs and circumstances,” Rothwell said. “We can’t hope to create a world-class educational system while we continue to underinvest in Michigan’s schools.”

Today’s Launch Michigan recommendations are supported by findings from a March 2019 survey of 17,000 Michigan educators, which identified additional literacy resources as a critical gap in their schools.

To access the full Launch Michigan recommendations, please visit

Launch Michigan Partners include:

Steering Committee Co-Chairs

Tonya Allen, The Skillman Foundation

Paula Herbart, Michigan Education Association

Doug Rothwell, Business Leaders for Michigan

Steering Committee Members

Amber Arellano, The Education Trust Midwest

Rick Baker, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Baruah, Detroit Regional Chamber

Tim Daman, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce

Darienne Driver Hudson, United Way for Southeastern Michigan

Rob Fowler, Small Business Association of Michigan

David Hecker, American Federation of Teachers—Michigan

Ron Koehler, The School Finance Research Collaborative

Bill Miller, Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators

Dan Quisenberry, Michigan Association of Public School Academies

Michael Rice, Michigan Department of Education

Julie Ridenour, Steelcase Foundation

Joe Scantlebury, Council of Michigan Foundations

Kevin Stotts, Talent 2025

Ray Telman, Middle Cities Education Association

Chris Wigent, Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators

Don Wotruba, Michigan Association of School Boards

The Michigan Parent Teacher Association

Traverse Connect

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Launch Michigan is an unprecedented partnership of business, education, labor, philanthropy, and civic leaders, as well as parents, all of whom care deeply about education and our state’s collective future. That is why we want a high-quality, student-centered system–one that helps every student succeed in school, in their careers, and in life. We understand implicitly that a strong, thriving public education system is the cornerstone of successful kids, prosperous communities, and a strong economy.

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