In the days following the mass shooting in Orlando we have seen people come together across the country to unite in both grief and in action. In a span of less than two days, corporate and individual giving topped more than $5 million for the victims. Our philanthropic community in Michigan has been seeking ways to help the victims, aid in the healing process and enhance violence prevention efforts in our own communities.
The shooting at the nightclub in Orlando is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. We know mass shootings can happen in any city, at any time. We witnessed it in our own backyard just four months ago, in Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo Community Foundation president and CEO Carrie Pickett-Erway, shared a poignant blog after the tragedy in Orlando titled, “More love. Less hate,” expressing support for the LGBTQ community.
ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), based in Dearborn, is the largest Arab American human services nonprofit in the country, has been asking others to take a stand against hate in the wake of the Orlando shooting. ACCESS partnered with faith leaders and community organizations last week in Detroit, holding a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting. ACCESS shared a statement extending sympathies to the LGBTQ community, saying in part, “The LGBTQ community has been essential in every movement for justice, and has stood fast with the Arab and Muslim communities in fighting for a more just and equitable society.” Countless CMF members and philanthropic partners have shared heartfelt messages on social media and on their websites about the tragedy in Orlando.
Where do we go from here?
We know many of our foundations and their grantees continue to look for ways to help and seek prevention efforts. At the request of members, our public policy fellow is doing research to inform the public policy committee on violence prevention strategies and related policy to be discussed by the public policy committee.
While CMF expects to present the findings of the research later this year, we are seeing communities taking action. Late last week more than 30 community leaders and West Michigan officials met to address violence prevention following the Orlando shootings. They are cataloging a list of what prevention programs are already in place and identifying areas that may have been overlooked. The task force is expected to establish a permanent coalition to monitor violence.
The Kalamazoo Community Foundation and Battle Creek Community Foundation quickly launched The Help Now! Fund following the Kalamazoo shootings to address financial needs of the victims’ families, violence preparedness and safety services in the aftermath of violence. The most recent numbers show the fund has raised more than $218,000, and $8,000 of which has been granted for community outreach to address long-term solutions to community violence.
The philanthropic community is looking for long term answers to community violence prevention efforts. The Forum, a national organization for regional grantmakers associations, plans to consult with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy on how regional grantmaking associations and grantmakers should respond to mass shootings.
The Central Florida Foundation announced the creation of the Better Together Fund on Friday. Another fund, the OneOrlando Fund was introduced by Orlando's mayor to help the victims and their families.
Summer break may be in full swing, but we are getting a first look at concerning numbers from our nation’s classrooms. A newly released report from the U.S. Department of Education details chronic absenteeism.
The first national data set on chronic absence shows more than 6 million kids are missing 15 days of school or more a year. Of the 100 largest school districts by enrollment, Detroit Public Schools has the highest rate in the country.
Interim superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, Alycia Meriweather, reacted to the findings by calling them a serious problem and a leading indicator “that impacts everything else we are trying to accomplish at the district.” Meriweather attended the summit on the issue June 9 in Washington, D.C., and plans to incorporate shared ideas and solutions to help DPS address its absenteeism. The most recent Michigan student count data shows a 27.8 percent chronic absenteeism rate in our state.
Why chronic absenteeism matters:
- May prevent children from reaching early learning milestones
- Can be a predictor of students dropping out before graduation
- Frequent absences from school can shape adulthood
The efforts by teachers, districts and funders can only go so far for children who are not present in school to benefit from the programming and curriculum.
Every Student, Every Day
The Obama Administration launched Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism last fall as the country’s first ever national, cross-sector initiative aimed at reducing absenteeism. The goal is for communities and states to reduce absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education shared a new interactive website debuting the national chronic absenteeism data.
Many schools have not regularly collected data on chronic absenteeism, so the findings promote a new focus. Instead of tracking daily attendance or figures for truancy, experts argue tracking absences by student is more useful data. Absenteeism is often an indicator of broader social problems, including illness or poverty, learning why these students are missing school can connect them with the appropriate programs or services. Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the long standing No Child Left Behind law, districts will need to gather that information and report it.
Michigan success story
Recently, the role of data mining to improve absenteeism rates at Grand Rapids Public Schools was highlighted by NPR. Once the district took a closer look at the numbers the problem became apparent. NPR reported that of the 17,000 kids in the district, 7,000 of them were missing a month or more of school a year. The district couldn’t seem to lower those numbers on their own, so they reached out to community partners, including a senior program officer of community initiatives with the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, which culminated in Challenge 5, an initiative to bring awareness to the problem of absences and encourage kids to strive for no more than five absences a school year.
They took their campaign to the community, sharing signs and utilizing community partners, eventually leading to the creation of GRPS’ Parent University, which is a first of its kind parental engagement program, offering courses on navigating the educational system, personal growth and development, health and wellness and more. Challenge 5 and the importance of attendance is also implemented into materials for those who participate in Parent University. Challenge 5 and Parent University are two programs with clear results. Nearly three years after the district started looking at the numbers, more than 3,600 kids are no longer chronically absent.
We know many of our foundations are working to improve the lives of our Michigan children. Last fall the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation awarded grants in support of Every Student, Every Day. Mott’s grants will fund a public awareness campaign and a mentoring project to reduce absenteeism. W.K. Kellogg Foundation was an initial funder in the launch of Attendance Works in 2010.
With new data coming in and a Michigan plan for ESSA underway, we may soon have new resources to tackle chronic absenteeism. The Michigan Department of Education expects to submit its ESSA accountability plan by spring 2017. The Michigan Department of Education has shared its strategic approach to become a top 10 education state within 10 years.
The P20 Education affinity group has developed a session for CMF’s 44th Annual Conference in September focusing on ESSA. State superintendent Brian Whiston, GRPS superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal and several other superintendents from around the state will walk us through what ESSA means and how grantmakers can offer support.
Momentum in Flint
Water testing, new efforts to gather data and another round of grants have come out of the Flint water crisis in recent days.
On Friday, University of Michigan-Flint hosted a meeting convened by Senator Gary Peters' staff with city, nonprofit and foundation leaders, in Flint to take a closer look at what different organizations and groups are doing with data and what projects can be leveraged in an effort to provide better outcomes in situations like the Flint water crisis.
"UM-Flint is committed to Flint’s revitalization, investing in systems that support decision making, and students and faculty that interpret data for the community in a meaningful way," Paula Nas, director of university outreach at UM-Flint said. "We realize our efforts are further strengthened by working collaboratively with our partners at the state and national level."
The importance of data tracking and platforms has been heavily emphasized in the Flint water crisis, just last month Google gave a $100,000 grant to develop a comprehensive data platform that will assist government and community leaders in making more informed decisions about the crisis and providing critical information to the people of Flint.
A Leadership Summit was held in Flint last week, as part of the Moving Flint Forward initiative. The summit brought business executives and community leaders together to discuss ways to help Flint succeed.
Ideas shared at the summit include:
- Leveraging Flint’s inventory of real estate for redevelopment
- Hosting a Flint homecoming to attract investment and jobs
- Creating innovation hubs to provide greater access to various capital sources
As part of the $25 million economic development program that was launched in March by Huntington Bank and the FlintNOW Foundation, 30 business owners were awarded grants late last week. The businesses were given grants to help them recover from the water crisis, the grant money will cover the costs of new equipment, repairs, water filtration systems and other critical needs to keep them economically viable, for the sake of Flint’s economy.
Engaging with business and community leaders continues as foundations and organizations look for ways to connect the people of Flint with long term solutions.
The Ruth Mott Foundation is holding a second informational meeting, slated for next week, to discuss their strategic plan for helping Flint. The foundation’s funding is designated to support priority areas including youth, safety, economic opportunity and neighborhoods. At their meeting next week, programming staff will be answering questions on the grant application process.
As for what’s happening in Flint homes, water testing continues. The recent water test results came from sentinel sites and homes where pipes have been replaced as part of a pilot replacement program in Flint. The results showed a drop in lead levels in some homes but not in all. As part of Mayor Karen Weaver's Fast Start program, the state paid to replace pipes with lead service lines in 33 homes so far. The efforts, while ongoing, are not an immediate fix, and residents who live where service lines have been replaced are being asked to continue the use of filters while the testing and evaluation process develops.
This week Bridge Magazine, the communications arm of The Center for Michigan, is releasing a book on the Flint water crisis, calling it “a compelling case study in how government at all levels can go very wrong – and yet shows the power of the human spirit to overcome.”
CMF Mentorship Program
Call for Mentors and Mentees
We are currently accepting applications for mentors and mentees for our nine-month mentorship program. The experience comes complete with executive coaching, curriculum based learning and a unique opportunity to interact with established and emerging leaders in the field of philanthropy.
“This program offers an unmatched opportunity to grow, sow and interact with high-performing, effective philanthropic leaders in an environment steeped in content and energy,” Lynnette Ferrell, senior program officer at the Frey Foundation said. “My experience – first as a mentee and now as a mentor – continues to prove relevant and productive.”