Launch Michigan: Our Education System Needs Unlikely Allies

We all know that our education system doesn’t exist in a vacuum. But, when it comes to tackling the tough problems that plague our classrooms, discussions are too often relegated to the same old parties and come together in the same old ways, just to hash out the same old ideas. 

Together, we need to take a visionary and creative approach to bridge the gap between business, education and talent. As business leaders, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce has joined a novel statewide initiative called Launch Michigan. We believe strongly in its importance, necessity and potential to transform education like never before. 

Launch Michigan is a historic, innovative partnership that primarily brings together representatives from schools, the workforce, unions, the philanthropic community and more. The chamber believes that by joining together these diverse — and sometimes unexpected — partners, who hold a similar vision for our state’s future, we can move beyond flat conversations in order to find meaningful and lasting solutions.  

Our state’s educational woes are neither new nor simple. Recent national rankings and test scores show children are falling behind their peers across the country: Budgets are tight from the school administration to the federal level, and the changes we are implementing, as well as the dollars behind them, still aren’t leading to the improvements that we hoped for. As a result, our businesses lack the skilled, educated talent they need to compete in the 21st century.

Countless groups have tried to take on these issues in the past. Unfortunately, that work has not yielded all of the intended results. Launch Michigan partners, however, see this not as a sign of hopelessness but as a call to action. We know we can move past pointing fingers and partisanship to seek high-quality solutions grounded in research and best practices.

Right now, Launch Michigan is in the early stages of collaboration, but we intend to finalize a shared agenda over the summer for elected officials to begin considering in the fall. In addition, the group will begin crafting solutions to long-term problems that move us toward our goal of making Michigan a top 10 state when it comes to education.

While the collective boasts a diverse set of individual viewpoints, Launch Michigan has already defined the following priorities to guide the creation of our agenda: 

  • Leveraging existing research and conducting a statewide educator survey, among other activities, as a way of listening to and supporting educators
  • Supporting shared, statewide, research-driven strategies for delivering education to all students effectively, and sticking to those strategies regardless of politics and election cycles so that we can see what works
  • Supporting a fair and comprehensive accountability system that includes everyone who influences education — not just teachers
  • Elevating public awareness about the current state of education in Michigan
  • Working together to ensure resources are available to provide an equitable student-centered education system and funding model

Make no mistake, as this work will not be easy. The problems facing Michigan’s K–12 system remain deep and complex, the solutions even more so. But we owe it to our teachers, parents, communities and — above all — our children to say goodbye to the status quo and find a different path forward.

We can do this with new ideas, a new attitude and a new approach. We can do this with Launch Michigan. 

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