Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > Improving PreK-12 Educational Outcomes

Improving PreK-12 Educational Outcomes

January 16, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Born from a Growing Michigan Together Council recommendation, the Michigan Education Guarantee can better prepare Michigan’s students for the future. 
  • There is a critical need to address historical inequities and commit to providing equal opportunities for all students, especially in underprivileged areas. 
  • By investing in a strong educational foundation, Michigan can attract professionals and businesses to the state, creating a virtuous cycle that contributes to the growth of high-paying jobs and a thriving economy that will support population growth. 

View the session recording below.

During the 2024 Detroit Policy Conference, Business Leaders for Michigan’s Jeff Donofrio, Michigan Education Association’s Chandra Madafferi, The Skillman Foundation’s Angelique Power, and Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Superintendent Nikolai Vitti shared their thoughts on the 2023 State of Education and Talent report findings and the recommendations in the Growing Michigan Together Council’s Pre-K educational report. With BridgeDetroit’s Orlando P. Bailey moderating the conversation, the panel also acknowledged the importance of intentional inclusivity to ensure policies benefit everyone, specifically addressing the needs of Detroit’s diverse population.

Challenges in Educational Performance 

The panelists’ discussion delved into the challenges Michigan’s educational system faced, focusing on the need for systemic changes – something that most of the state’s residents agree upon. Power highlighted that with the struggles parents noticed and reported with their children in the classroom, saying, “… 80% of Michiganders are in favor of more investment in schools even if they had to come out of their own pocket.”  

Madafferi also noted the need to reimagine and make the teaching profession attractive, especially for young, black, and brown talent. The discussion revolved around the importance of a culturally sensitive curriculum, adaptability, and lifelong learning, addressing the evolving landscape of education.  

Vitti discussed the historical inequities in Michigan’s education system and the need to address them by implementing the Council’s recommendations: The commitment to equitable funding emerged as a central theme to benefit all Michigan children, especially Black children. 

 “When you look at individual school districts, seven out of eight underperform their peers in other states,” he said. “This is an issue that is not just about Detroit. It is not just about Pontiac or Benton Harbor…It is a Michigan problem.” 

The Michigan Education Guarantee 

The panel also shed light on the Michigan Education Guarantee, a transformative initiative to restructure PreK-12 education by including a 13th year for students ready for post-secondary education. It emphasizes a holistic support system and adaptability to tailor support for students in the areas they need most.  

Discussing the program further, Madafferi said it features “… a whole range of support that is put around a student and a teacher so that when they get to graduate, you know that they’re graduating with what they need to adapt to the future.”  

Donofrio drew connections between education and economic growth. He emphasized the need for a strong educational foundation to attract professionals and businesses to the state and stressed that investing in education is an investment in Michigan’s economic future. 

Overcoming Funding Challenges 

The conversation concluded with a focus on individual district funding challenges. In the current system, students are disproportionally in districts that receive the least support and resources to address their needs, yet students with fewer struggles receive more aid. While Power applauded the Michigan Legislature’s current work, there is still a long way to go. 

“The key part of the recommendations is the commitment to equitable funding. … We still have a problem in Michigan around equitable funding,” Power said. “… $9,600 [in Detroit] is still less than Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham, which is at $13,000 per student. We have to be honest about funding because every individual child needs a different amount of investment.”