Historic alliance of diverse organizations comes together to improve Michigan’s K-12 education outcomes; focus on student needs, future

Unprecedented group of business, education, labor, philanthropy, and state and community leaders join forces as ‘Launch Michigan,’ to become a top 10 education state

Lansing, Mich. – A strong, thriving public education system is the cornerstone for helping Michigan’s children succeed in school, careers and life as well as building robust communities and an economy that works for everyone. It also must be a top state priority, today said “Launch Michigan,” a diverse, never-before assembled group of business, education, labor, philanthropic, and state and community leaders.

Unveiled at the Impression 5 Science Center in the state’s capital city, that was the loud and clear message from the unlikely group of allies who have pledged to work together to turn Michigan into a leader in educational excellence with lasting, research-driven strategies that transcend politics and election cycles.

Tim Daman, president and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted that the effort was a perfect illustration of the collaboration essential to addressing some of the state’s most pressing issues. “From the state capital of Lansing to the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula, a strong K-12 education system that prepares our kids for all that’s next is one of the keys to ensuring Michigan’s comeback continues and truly ensuring sustained prosperity for all. We are more than committed to supporting this historic effort,” Daman said.

For Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable comprised of the chairpersons, CEOs, or most senior executives of Michigan’s largest companies and universities, this work is essential. “Robust public education is essential for thriving economies, creating opportunities for everyone and for Michigan companies to fulfill their wishes for hiring top homegrown talent,” said BLM President and CEO Doug Rothwell. “This work is critical to Michigan being a place that we can all live, work, raise a family and call home. BLM is ‘all in’ to make this vision and effort a reality.”

Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association, representing 140,000 of the state’s teachers, education support professionals and higher education employees, said the Great Lakes State’s largest public employee union has joined the effort to find shared solutions for our students and state. She was joined at the announcement by David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, a union representing another 35,000 educators working in K-12 and intermediate school districts, community colleges and universities across the state.

“Education is not a partisan issue,” Herbart said. “We are 100 percent committed and proud to be part of this effort to help front-line educators who are experts at teaching and learning provide answers and inform this partnership about what’s needed to help every student learn and succeed, regardless of the zip code they live in.”

The group said countless reports and research are clear: Michigan is facing an education crisis and can’t afford to get stuck re-defining the problem over and over again. Instead, it’s about working and moving forward together to improve the system for every child, every school and our state.

For example, Oakland Schools Superintendent Wanda Cook-Robinson, representative for the School Finance Research Collaborative and numerous Michigan education management associations, said that “educators go into this field for one reason and one reason only – to help kids and be part of helping them learn and grow. Too often, education goals and policies shift beneath our feet. We need shared strategies that work, that we can stick with and that shouldn’t change depending on who is in office. We are excited to roll up our sleeves and work together to best serve all students.”

“I can’t think of anything more important for our kids and our state’s collective future,” said Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, which represents 26,000 small businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries across Michigan. “We are stronger together. This unique collaboration will help us find meaningful, shared solutions for addressing K-12 achievement and generating the kind of outcomes that fuel innovative spirits, inspire future entrepreneurs and more – regardless of political affiliations. It’s a new day and a new way forward, together.”

“We know that the most effective way for our state to boost the short and long-term wellbeing of its people is to invest in improvements in education,” said Amber Arellano, executive director for Education Trust-Midwest, a leading nonpartisan, data-driven education policy, research and advocacy organization. “This new partnership can make a big difference in advancing the pursuit of educational excellence and equity for all Michigan students, and can be a tremendous resource in 2019 when our state has a new governor and many new state lawmakers.”

 For Derek Shinska, chair of the Detroit Economic Club Young Leaders and its Career Readiness Academy, the need for and timing of Launch Michigan couldn’t be better. “The world and jobs are changing fast. It’s imperative for Michigan kids everywhere to have the most up-to-date skills and training, and to be able to apply or adapt them. We’re excited about this partnership and what it can mean for students and our state’s future.”

“This collaboration provides a platform for Michigan’s philanthropic community to get behind,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “If we provide equitable opportunity through our state’s education system, we can produce equitable outcomes and a prosperous future for all. To do so, we must put politics aside and work together to effectively serve children in every corner of our state.”

Initial areas of agreement and focus include:

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

Next steps include fleshing out a shared agenda this summer and getting it in front of candidates and elected officials in the fall.

The list of participating organizations is growing. As of June 20, 2018, it includes:

  • AFT Michigan
  • Business Leaders for Michigan
  • Center for Michigan
  • Council of Michigan Foundations
  • Detroit Economic Club Young Leaders Board
  • Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Valley State Univ. Charter Schools Office
  • Kent ISD
  • Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Macomb Intermediate School District
  • Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators
  • Michigan Association of Public School Academies
  • Michigan Association of School Boards
  • Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators
  • Michigan College Access Network
  • Michigan Department of Education
  • Michigan Education Association
  • Michigan Nonprofit Association
  • Michigan PreK-12 Literacy Commission
  • Michigan School Business Officials
  • Michigan’s Children
  • Middle Cities Education Association
  • School Finance Research Collaborative
  • Skillman Foundation
  • Small Business Association of Michigan
  • Steelcase Foundation
  • Talent 2025
  • Teach for America-Detroit
  • The Education Trust-Midwest
  • Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce
  • United Way for Southeastern Michigan
  • Wayne RESA
  • Tom Haas, Grand Valley State University President & Chair, Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission
  • Doug Ross, Commissioner, Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission

The effort is expected to grow and expand over the next several months. More information can be found online at www.LaunchMichigan.org.






Education Advocates: Reform, More Training Opportunities Needed to Sustain Detroit’s Momentum

Research shows that education is a driving force to foster a vibrant and strong economy. Detroit is no exception. That was a key message education advocates and leaders expressed during a panel discussion moderated by Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent at the Detroit Regional Chamber during the Investor Briefing: Attracting and Retaining Talent in Southeast Michigan in February.

“For the first time in forever, Detroit has a global macro trend working in its favor,” said Ned Staebler, vice president of economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown.

“Studies show people are moving to the urban centers across the world faster than ever before,” Staebler added.

With that trend showing no signs of slowing, one area of concern echoed by the panelists is the lack of accessible quality education, specifically among K-12 schools in Southeast Michigan.

“We have a lot going for us now in Detroit but it won’t mean anything if we don’t do something about our regional education system,” said Richard Rassel, Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council co-chair and Butzel Long chairman. “Our standards (for education) have slipped and we really need to get back to where we were.”

Education reform has been a longtime priority for the Chamber. Through its top-rated advocacy work at the local and state level to its management and collaboration on the Detroit Promise, the Chamber is committed to providing quality education to all students, regardless of income level.

Addressing diversification beyond traditional college tracks for students, attendees voiced the need for alternative options such as more vocational training and career programs.

“We have had to re-engage with community colleges to build partnerships to create a pipeline,” said Mikel Slater, vice president of human resources for Comcast. “Eighty percent of our workforce is technical and the other portion is mostly sales, so everyone is not university bound.”

Comcast is not alone in its effort to promote technical and skill-based employment opportunities.

Detroit Sewn, Magna International, Shinola and UAW-Ford National Programs Center, among others, currently employ participants of Henry Ford College’s (HFC) Industrial Sewing, Multi-Skilled Manufacturing and Mechatronic dual enrollment programs. HFC’s programs train individuals for entry-level jobs within industrial sewing, mechanical and robot maintenance.

Rassel encouraged more businesses and colleges to work collaboratively to help address the region’s talent gap.

“The business community has a big piece in fixing education and we must be prepared to shoulder the burden,” he said.

Stay tuned to the Chamber’s website for information on the next Investor Briefing date and time.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Hamilton at mhamilton@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.

Legislative Update: Brownfield TIF Act, Gov. Snyder Budget Proposal

Transformational Brownfield Bills Can Spur Development

Last week, the Michigan Senate re-introduced legislation to expand Michigan’s Brownfield TIF Act (Senate Bills 111-115) to provide gap financing for large, transformational projects. Michigan’s growth and prosperity depends on attracting and retaining talent who seek vibrant urban places to live and work.  Development projects in our urban cores continue to face significant economic gaps, as market rents fail to support major ground-up construction or rehabilitation of large, distressed historic structures.

The Chamber’s advocacy team continues to actively engage lawmakers on this issue and serves as a leading member of the MI Thrive coalition, supporting this key component of Detroit’s continued revitalization. The coalition consists of 40 community and economic development leaders and chambers of commerce across the state.

Education a Top Priority in Gov. Snyder’s Proposed State Budget

Gov. Rick Snyder has released his proposed fiscal year 2017-18 budget, and the Detroit Regional Chamber continues to advocate for pro-business priorities that support quality education, affordable health care and a talented workforce. Key takeaways impacting business in Southeast Michigan include:

  • An increase of $10 million for the Skilled Trades Training Fund
  • An increase of $213 milliion for road infrastructure
  • Continued support for the Healthy Michigan Initiative
  • An increase of 3.4 percent in higher education funding
  • Increased funding for at-risk K-12 students

The Chamber continues to engage with administrative and legislative leaders in support of a competitive tax climate while also supporting investments in essential programs and services for Michigan’s residents and businesses.

For more information, contact Jason Puscas at jpuscas@detroitchamber.com, or learn more about the Chamber’s 2017 Legislative Priorities.