Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards
Policy & Systems

Putting the ‘public’ in public policy

At last week’s Detroit Policy Conference, organized by the Detroit Regional Chamber, much conversation centered around the recently released report from Governor Whitmer’s Growing Michigan Together Council which highlighted key issues and proposed solutions to boost the state’s population and economy by focusing on K-12 education, higher education, people and infrastructure, and jobs and talent.

Council Co-Chair Shirley Stancato stated that “education was a core focus behind the [Council’s] work,” also noting that student numbers are declining in K-12 districts throughout the state. To talk in more depth about needed transformations to Michigan’s education system, our President & CEO Angelique Power joined Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District; Chandra Madafferi, President of Michigan Education Association; and Jeff Donofrio, President & CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan on stage for a panel moderated by Orlando Bailey, Director of Engagement at BridgeDetroit.

The conversation hit on the four key recommendations made by the PreK-12 council workgroup:

  • Governance and Accountability
    • Align governance and accountability to system vision and goals, while clarifying roles, eliminating inefficiencies, and bolstering capacity.
  • The Michigan Education Guarantee
    • Commit to the Michigan Education Guarantee that students graduate with the competencies they need to thrive now and throughout their lifetimes.
  • Reimagine the Job of Teaching
    • Reimagine learning and the job of teaching, enabling educators to innovate so students can learn for life.
  • Funding the System
    • Fund the system fully, equitably, efficiently, and transparently so every student and every school has the resources needed to meet the system’s goals, including the Michigan Education Guarantee.

View the conversation:

Policy for and by the people

It is essential to note that these recommendations were not handed down by the governor nor were they compiled through the agendas of the workgroup or council members. They were data and community informed.

As statewide policy will impact each community differently, residents weighed in across all focus areas of the Growing Michigan Together report. Hilary Doe, Chief Growth Officer for the State of Michigan, stated during her stage time at the conference that meaningful change calls for policy change, partnership with local communities, and authentic storytelling. She said “in order to really grow the state we need to wrap arms around, first, the folks that are here… we’ve been talking to Michiganders and we’re listening, and we believe them.”

To this we say good job. And we note that other leaders who took the stage at the Detroit Policy Conference also spoke to the importance of youth voice including Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield and Aidan Sova, trustee and secretary of Ann Arbor District Library.

We urge Michigan leaders and legislators to continue to involve young people and the public at large to understand issues and to craft and implement strong policy.

At The Skillman Foundation, we want to see and support a more equitable education policy eco-system—one that aims at improving outcomes for all students, including Detroit students, by centering the insights of Detroit youth, educators, and community advocates. To this end, we are developing new, community-informed strategies to launch in the second half of 2024. Stay tuned for descriptions of how The Skillman Foundation will help ensure Michigan’s education policies are responsive and transformative.

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