Steelcase, CMS executives: Michigan businesses must take the lead for better schools


By Brian Cloyd and Ken Whipple

Business leaders care about education in Michigan, not just because they are trying to be good corporate citizens.

It is also because business leaders are making the connection between investment in education and its impact on the economic future of the state.

Michigan’s educational landscape, and its decade-long decline, is well documented in a report released this month by The Education Trust-Midwest.

Over the past 15 years, Michigan’s relative rank has dropped dramatically in the top scores in reading and math compared to the rest of the country. The data suggests that Michigan’s K-12 education system is witnessing systemic failure. Michigan’s African-American students are nationally bottom in fourth-grade reading and math. But the crisis isn’t just affecting students of color.

As recently as 2003, Michigan was among the best states for white fourth-grade reading scores, but now ranks 49th. Additionally, data shows white college students in upper-income Michigan communities now rank 50th in early reading. Michigan is in free fall, on its way to ranking among the nation’s worst states for education.

In short, in a global economy – and an increasingly global talent pool – Michigan’s failing K-12 system places students at a huge disadvantage when it comes to having the skills required for it. college and career necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century. . Michigan’s youth are already missing out on college education opportunities due to their failing education system. Their families and the state also spend billions of dollars on sanitation each year, to make up for what the K-12 system has not done.

Money alone will not solve this crisis. This will require thoughtful, sustained and committed leadership, especially from the business sector.

Other states have led the way and are showing us how Michigan can topple its schools and fly away. In world leaders like Massachusetts and high student growth states like Tennessee, sound practices and high leverage strategies have produced impressive results. In both of these states, business leaders and organizations have played a critical role in the success of these states.

Over the past few months, top business leaders and organizations across the state have pledged to make Michigan one of the top 10 education states for all students in our great state. Michigan has Great Lakes and a growing economy. But we cannot be great, however great we define it, if our leaders provide our state’s students with one of the poorest public school systems in the United States. And this in a country whose schools underperform much of the industrialized world.

The business community has been a critical voice in systemic change and investment in closing the achievement gap and improving performance in leading education states. We need business leaders and organizations in all corners of the state to work to align our state’s education policies with our goal of better schools.

It’s time for Michigan business leaders to help show leadership in promoting a thoughtful, research-based strategy to ensure our system teaches all children the high levels of achievement they so deserve. . This is critical to their future, as well as Michigan’s competitiveness and economic future.

Michigan business organizations and leaders can take concrete steps to promote better educational outcomes for all children in our state. To find out how to get involved, visit And consider signing up for the campaign to make Michigan one of the top ten states for education in

Michigan students are just as talented, bright, and able to learn to high standards as children in other states. Upgrading all of Michigan’s children, relative to their peers in other states, is key to our long-term ability to attract and retain talented employees. It will also help us create an environment that will encourage businesses to locate here and expand their business, and ultimately create good jobs for our citizens.

(vs) Bridge review, reprinted with permission. Bridge Magazine, a publication of Central Michigan, produces independent, not-for-profit public affairs journalism, and is a partner of MLive.


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