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K-12 Education

Black and Bright: Advancing Equitable Education Policies

Michigan students are bright and capable. They are Michigan’s future. Nearly 1 in 5 are Black. By third grade, only 20% of our Black students are reading at grade level. 70% graduate from high school. 26% earn a college degree. For white students, 53% are reading proficient by third grade, 85% graduate high schools, and 41% earn a college degree.

Though neither set of outcomes are what any of us would expect—or accept—for our children, the racial inequities are clear.

These numbers do not reflect a disparity in student achievement, but a disparity in resources available to deliver a quality education and support healthy childhood development. This session will highlight specific policies that Michigan can enact to advance education equity and improve outcomes for our children, our communities, and our state.

Skillman Foundation President & CEO Tonya Allen moderated a conversation with john a. powell, director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, and Dannah Wilson, student activist at the University of Michigan. Hear insights from successful policy efforts that bring light to how our state leadership can work together to advance equity and grow prosperity in Michigan. 

About the Panelists

john a. powell

john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties and a wide range of issues including race, structural racism, ethnicity, housing, poverty, and democracy. He is the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), which supports research to generate specific prescriptions for changes in policy and practice that address disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomics in California and nationwide. In addition, to being a Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor powell holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion. He was recently the Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University and held the Gregory H. Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law. Under his direction, the Kirwan Institute has emerged as a national leader on research and scholarship related to race, structural racism, racialized space and opportunity. He has been a leader in developing an “opportunity-based” housing model that provides a critical and creative framework for thinking about affordable housing, racialized space, and the many ways that housing influences other opportunity domains including education, health, health care, and employment.

Professor powell has written extensively on a number of issues including structural racism, racial justice and regionalism, concentrated poverty and urban sprawl, opportunity based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society. He is the author of several books, including his most recent work, Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.

Previously, Professor powell founded and directed the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota. He also served as Director of Legal Services in Miami, Florida and was National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union where he was instrumental in developing educational adequacy theory.

Professor powell has worked and lived in Africa, where he was a consultant to the governments of Mozambique and South Africa. He has also lived and worked in India and done work in South America and Europe. He is one of the co-founders of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and serves on the board of several national organizations. Professor powell has taught at numerous law schools including Harvard and Columbia University.

Mark Rosenbaum

Mark Rosenbaum is director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, which aims to eliminate economic injustice.

He has argued four times before the United States Supreme Court, more than 25 before the Ninth and Sixth Circuit federal Courts of Appeal, three before the California Supreme Court and before the United States Court of Military Appeals. 

Rosenbaum has been principal counsel in landmark cases in the areas of K-12 public and higher education, voting rights, poverty law and homelessness, racial, gender, class and sexual orientation discrimination, health care, immigrants’ rights, foster care and criminal defendants’ rights. 

Among his many high profile cases, Rosenbaum was successful in securing over $1 billion for underserved schools in textbooks, qualified teachers and safe and sanitary school facilities (Williams v. California); redistricting Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor district lines to end over 118 years of discrimination against Latinos (Garza v. Board of Supervisors); invalidating Proposition 187 (Gregorio T. v. Wilson); overturning the conviction of Black Panther Geronimo Pratt and obtaining relief on behalf of severely disabled homeless veterans (Valentini v. Shinseki). 

He currently teaches law at the University of California Irvine Law School and has also taught at UCLA, USC and Loyola law schools and currently teaches courses in liberty and equality and free speech to Chinese law students at Peking University of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China. Rosenbaum graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan and from Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his advocacy and has twice been named California Lawyer of the Year in civil rights.

He joined Public Counsel from his roles for over four decades with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, most recently as Chief Counsel, and for over two decades as a professor of law at the University of Michigan, most recently as the Harvey Gunderson Professor from Practice, specializing in constitutional and civil rights law courses.

Dannah Wilson 

Dannah Wilson is a junior at the University of Michigan studying Communications and Media with a minor in Art and Design. A Detroit native, her passion for education justice began in tenth grade after witnessing the corrupt administration of her charter school. Since then, she has made it her duty to fight for a more resourced, equitable education for her and her peers.

After graduating from high school, Ms. Wilson took a gap year where she shadowed professionals in public service, worked for an after school tutoring program, interned at a law firm, attended conferences, and volunteered in Kenya for two months.

At UofM, she works at The Michigan Daily as the Access and Inclusion chair. This position is the bridge between diversity, equity and inclusion work and human resources.

Following her undergraduate career, Ms. Wilson plans to earn a dual-degree in law and public policy.

The Skillman Foundation

The Skillman Foundation is a grantmaking organization established in 1960 by Rose Skillman. We have granted out more than $730 million and have served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth and community leadership, and racial equity and justice.

We are in the process of developing a new strategic framework, co-designed with Detroit youth and their champions.

Comments (1)

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  • Dr. Ingrid Draper

    I would like to participate in the conference.
    Dr. Ingrid Draper

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