Momentum building for education change — here's how to take part

A couple of weeks ago, at the Mackinac Policy Conference, a conversation about education in Detroit gained momentum. Many participants departed the island with a feeling of real purpose, real action, and real possibility. Many are beginning to believe we can win.  

Allen Tonya

Tonya Allen

I wanted to take a moment to share what I’ve noticed, and tell you how you can be a part of the momentum and make it stronger.

The temperature on making real education reform happen in Detroit has been rising since well before the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren formed in December. It’s a major reason why the CFDS formed – because so many disparate people were ready to admit that our competing strategies were not improving education and that working on it together, urgently, was the only way forward.

The Coalition released its report called The Choice Is Ours on March 30. About a month later, Gov. Rick Snyder released his own report, with some recommendations overlapping with the Coalition and some important distinctions. 

In May, the conversation at the Politics and Pancakes breakfast brought more attention to the topic. See our wrap-up of that conversation in our Storify and see video of the event here.

And then came Mackinac. The Foundation sponsored a session featuring fellow CFDS co-chair John Rakolta Jr, Detroit Chamber head Sandy Baruah, and me. A standing-room only crowd filled the room, which was great to see so early in the morning. The conversation was powerful, and it set the tone for the rest of the conference. 


That the Mayor then used his time in the Mackinac spotlight to take on the issue said volumes. Mayor Duggan has been publicly wary of getting involved with the fight for better schools in his city. But as he said in his speech, he recognizes that there comes a time when it is simply unethical to sit on the sideline and watch what’s happening when you have the power to make change.

See a full wrap-up of the conversation at Mackinac in this Storify.

The Mayor did a tremendous job of outlining the issues and offered his own version of a plan, which was truly a compromise between the Governor’s plan and the Coalition’s plan. 


There has been more action since Mackinac. A conference committee of the Michigan Legislature approved a school aid fund budget last week that included $50 million 


Right click and save this photo and use it as your avatar on social media to show support for real change for Detroit kids.

in unappropriated funds earmarked for the debt relief for Detroit Public Schools. That won’t solve the entire debt issue, but it is a good start.

And Detroit Public Schools itself released news that it has plans for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the district that is focused on improving academic outcomes.

All of this adds up to something great -- momentum.

But momentum alone isn’t enough. We need it to keep resulting in real action.

You can help with that.

Send your legislator an email explaining why you support the CFDS recommendations.

If you’d like representatives from the Coalition to come and speak with your community organization to answer questions, shoot an email to Outreach Director Heaster Wheeler.

If you want to show support, change your avatar to the Choice Is Ours logo (just right click to save) or write us a letter of support, and we’ll post it on the report web site.

And join the Choice Is Ours email list to get updates as the momentum begins to snowball into action and change.

Thanks for your attention – and for your action. We can do this. We can win for our kids.

Tonya Allen is president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation and a co-chair of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren. You can follow her on Twitter @allen_tonya