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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Time for a fresh look at how we fund our public schools

Rob Fowler

The School Finance Research Collaborative, a broad-based, bipartisan group of business and education experts from metro Detroit to the U.P., applauds Grand Rapids philanthropist Jim Brooks and other business leaders for proposing ways to prepare Michigan students for the competitive 21st century workforce.

In a recent edition of Bridge, Brooks makes the case that we must help prepare all Michigan public school students for college and careers.

We agree, but that process must begin with a comprehensive look at how we fund our public schools so all students can achieve and succeed, no matter their challenges or circumstances.

The way we fund Michigan’s schools is broken, and we must reexamine our approach to provide a high-quality education to all Michigan public school students. The Collaborative, whose members agree it’s time to change our school funding, is taking the lead in this effort.

We are bringing together top industry experts to analyze that funding, with the intention to better serve all students, regardless of their location, income, race or other circumstances.  

Policymakers need the best, most complete and accurate information on what it truly costs to educate all students. Our group is supporting a new, comprehensive school-funding adequacy study that will use multiple methodologies.  

The new study will build on the findings of the state-funded Michigan Education Finance Study released last summer and give us a truly comprehensive look at school financing. We have begun the process of hiring a contractor to provide this first-of-its-kind analysis of school financing in Michigan and expect the results by early 2018. Once accurate and comprehensive data are available, the Collaborative will communicate this critical information to Michigan policymakers, stakeholders and the public at large.

Schools need a plan and a roadmap for success, just like businesses. That journey begins with the best and most reliable data on how to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. A truly comprehensive adequacy study is the first step toward meeting this goal.  

Michigan’s small-business community relies on our public schools to prepare students for jobs, technical education and college so they are primed for success and ready to enter the workforce, regardless of their background or circumstances. In business, we continually see how strong schools mean strong small businesses every day. We must recruit top-notch talent to grow our businesses and fill the cutting-edge jobs of tomorrow.

It’s important to build and attract the talent of the future and build Michigan’s workforce from the ground up, brick by brick, student by student.

We must prepare all students for jobs and bright futures to continue Michigan’s economic comeback and create the jobs of tomorrow right here in the Great Lakes State.

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