Opinion: Budget cuts don't add up for Michigan students
The Michigan Education Corps provides critical support to Michigan children struggling with math and literacy through one on one intervention and tutoring in some of our most challenged schools.
At a cost of only $3 million, and utilizing AmeriCorps volunteers, it’s a proven success for Michigan children and schools, yet was cut by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her latest proposed budget.
I know that Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature are committed to supporting high-performing public schools throughout the state of Michigan. Legislative leaders have introduced a series of supplemental spending bills that would restore funding to some of the line-item vetoes, but MEC is not included. Without it, thousands of children will be at risk of falling behind in literacy and math at a critical point in their education.
About 55,000 students statewide are failing to reach basic levels of literacy and more than 40,000 students don’t have a fundamental grasp on basic math based on recent M-STEP data. For the last seven years, Michigan Education Corps has been working to actively change that. And what we’re doing is working.
- We are in 84 schools, in 26 districts, and 17 counties across the state, most notably Detroit Public Schools Community District, along with Ecorse, Ferndale, and Ypsilanti Public Schools in southeast Michigan.
- We work with about 3,000 children from preschool age through eighth grade. Of those, 80% of students are meeting or exceeding their literacy goals, and 74% are meeting their math benchmarks because of our intervention.
- Two-thirds of our interventionists funnel into the educator pipeline in the state
One in 6 children who are not reading proficiently in third grade fail to graduate from high school on time. Each high school dropout costs the taxpayers tens of thousands over the course of his/her life. In 2018, nearly 16,000 students who started ninth grade dropped out within six years. By doing the math, the potential cost to state taxpayers could exceed billions of dollars
Our teachers are doing everything they can to support these students at-risk for not reading or knowing math at grade level. But they need help. For the last seven years, Michigan Education Corps has placed trained AmeriCorps interventionists in schools to work individually with struggling students each day, something not possible in most schools.
Michigan Education Corps is a proven, national program that has flourished in states like Minnesota, Florida and Massachusetts. In fact, four separate studies across three states showed that students who participated in Reading Corps accelerated their literacy skills and performed better than comparable students who did not.
Moreover, students of color, students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, and English Language Learners all made noteworthy gains toward closing their learning gap.
Until the recent budget negotiations Michigan Education Corps was growing and expanding to more schools in Detroit and other communities, thanks largely to philanthropy that our minimal state investment leveraged. The current cut puts even that at risk.
It’s our hope that Whitmer and the Legislature put students – and families – first. We all want a better tomorrow for Michigan and this is one program that is making that a reality.
Phil Weaver is president and CEO of Hope Network, one of Michigan's largest nonprofit organization providing health care and life services to more than 20,000 people in 240 communities across the state.