Letter: Research must precede school reforms

Michigan public school educators, students and parents have navigated a maze of confusing, sometimes contradictory school reforms in recent years.

I applaud Detroit News columnist Ingrid Jacques for clearly making this argument in her May 11 column, “Stop the school reform merry-go-round.”

The key missing ingredient in this critical discussion is comprehensive, reliable and accurate data that tell us what it truly costs to educate all public school students. Financial data and experience acknowledges children with different needs many times require additional funding.

The School Finance Research Collaborative, a statewide, broad-based and bipartisan group of business and education experts, is supporting a school adequacy study that is taking a first-of-its-kind approach to how we fund our schools. Adequacy studies have proven to be the first step toward successful school finance reforms across the country.

The Michigan study will use multiple methodologies to determine the true cost of educating all public school students, including students with special needs, low-income students and English language learners. It will include a special panel on charter schools, a first for such a statewide study in the United States, as well as panels on geographically isolated districts, very small districts, career and technical education.

The fact is, Michigan’s school funding system isn’t working for all of our students, and we need to rethink the system to help all students achieve and succeed. The collaborative is taking the lead in this effort, and plans to deliver results of its study to Michigan policymakers and the public by January of 2018.

This vital information will create a road map toward preparing all Michigan public school students for college, successful careers and bright futures.

Jessica Thomas

vice president, Birmingham Public Schools

Board of Education and committee member,

School Finance Research Collaborative

Advisory Committee