June 24, 2019

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Uncertain Future of Struggling MI School Districts

A Southwest Michigan community is rallying around its high school in hopes of keeping the doors open amidst serious financial strain.

The Benton Harbor City Commission approved a “fresh start resolution” last week that would help to forgive the district’s debt in hopes of preventing the closure of Benton Harbor High School. This move comes after the Benton Harbor School Board rejected the state’s proposal to close the high school.

As Michigan Radio reports the state has cited the district’s $18.4 million debt as the reason behind the recommendation to close the school.

What we are seeing play out in a community that’s struggling economically is not unique to Benton Harbor.

As CMF has reported, the Michigan School Finance Study found that “overall, Michigan’s school finance system is moderately inequitable." The research pointed out that districts with higher need tend to have fewer resources available to serve students. 

Earlier this month, Michigan’s Department of Treasury provided its quarterly report to the Legislature on the fiscal health of Michigan school districts. This is the 15th report of its kind that the department has provided to the Legislature highlighting potential fiscal stress within a district since such reporting became required by state law in 2015.

To identify these schools, the department uses a projection model that includes enrollment, revenue, expenditure and fund balance of a district for two fiscal years. It also examines budget information from all 900 districts to track changes.

The first report that was issued in 2016 showed 19 districts experiencing potential financial stress. Of those, 15 have improved their finances, two incurred deficits and two remain in potential financial stress.

The latest report shows many districts are struggling around the state, including both urban and rural districts.

2019 data at a glance

  • 15 districts are experiencing potential financial stress.

  • The districts include the school district of the city of Flint, Ionia Township, Eau Claire Public Schools, Beaverton Rural Schools, Forest Park School District and more. You can view the full list on page 5 of the report.

  • Of the 15, one district, Chassell Township has already improved their finances and has been removed from the list.

As efforts continue to prevent the closure of Benton Harbor High School, it’s clear that struggling district finances is an issue facing communities around the state.

In Michigan, education remains the top investment area for funders with nearly a quarter of the roughly $1.6 billion in annual philanthropic giving going to education.

CMF and the Office of Foundation Liaison are engaging with members who would like to begin collaborative, informative conversations about what’s happening in these communities statewide. If you are interested in being involved in these conversations and helping to shape potential strategies for our philanthropic community, please connect with OFL. 

Want more?

Read the full report.






An Update on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Work in MI

We’re getting an update from a new report highlighting the work of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) effort in four Michigan communities: Battle Creek, Flint, Lansing and Kalamazoo.

TRHT is a comprehensive, national and community-based process developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, and to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism.

CMF continues to serve primarily as a convener for the four Michigan sites, while the work of several of the sites are led or supported by their local community foundations.

We’re highlighting some of the year two implementation activities of the four communities within TRHT’s five pillars: Narrative Change, Racial Healing, Separation, Law and Economy.

Narrative Change

  • In Flint, the Sloan Museum presented the exhibit Race Are We So Different, funded in part by the Ruth Mott Foundation to stimulate public dialogue about race, racial healing and more.

    • Lesson learned: The exhibit brought new audiences to the museum and engaged museum staff in sensitive conversations. As a result of the exhibit, the Sloan Museum plans to prioritize such community conversations and apply a racial equity lens to future programming.

  • In Kalamazoo, a TRHT course was available for Western Michigan University students to educate them about the concepts and national movement.

    • Lesson learned: There is a demand for such education at the university level.

Racial Healing

  • All four sites organized racial healing design teams and planned activities for their communities for the 2019 National Day of Racial Healing.

  • In Battle Creek, the site hosted activities that provided engagement of underrepresented groups at several events including a youth summit and community conversations for racial healing with the Burma Center, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi, New Level Sports, the Urban League and Voces.

    • Lesson learned: This event confirmed the need for continued community conversations around racial healing, with an emphasis on the nuances of cultural and linguistic context. Work will continue with community partners to organize these conversations.


  • In Lansing, their design team is focusing on activities designed to help elementary and high school students think critically about the impact of segregation and how to address it. The site partnered with a hip-hop group and a hip-hop academy to host concerts in three school districts to promote messages of unity and diversity. Teachers were provided materials for continued discussion with their students.

    • Lesson learned: There was some negative feedback from parents about a song that celebrated immigrants and the teaching of diversity and unity. The superintendent recognized the negative parental feedback as an indicator of the urgent need to continue offering racial equity and healing programming.


  • In Kalamazoo, the design team is working to educate key stakeholders on the history of inequities in the local immigration and criminal justice system and promote systemic change.

  • In Lansing, the goal of the team is to achieve a 20 percent decrease in criminal justice system involvement among Black youth ages 17-24 by 2022. The Ingham County prosecutor committed to carrying out a racial equity assessment and action plan for her office. So far about 30 assistant prosecutors have participated in sessions, workshops and tests around structural racism and implicit bias.

    • Lesson learned: This partnership could lead to the development of tools for other prosecutor’s offices.

TRHT is a five-year effort that will continue to build momentum in year three with more action and sustainability plans taking shape in our Michigan communities.

For instance, in Lansing, the site plans to develop a racial healing strategy for city departments.

This year at CMF’s Annual Conference, taking place October 6-8 in Traverse City, you will have a chance to learn more about this work in action during a breakout session hosted by the TRHT site leads. CMF is also offering a special opportunity for participants to engage in a racial healing circle. Pre-registration for the circle will be available when conference registration goes live July 8th.

Want more?

Learn more about TRHT.

Connect with TRHT Kalamazoo, TRHT Lansing, TRHT Flint or TRHT Battle Creek.






How MI Ranks in Child Well-Being Nationally

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its 30th edition of the KIDS COUNT Databook which shows how Michigan stacks up to the rest of the country in key indicators for child well-being.

The Databook shows there are approximately 419,000 Michigan children living in poverty.

Racial disparities persist nationally and in our state as Michigan has the highest rate of concentrated poverty for African American children in the country for the second year in a row.

“To mark the 30th edition, this year’s national KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a unique opportunity to look at child well-being over three decades. We can see where Michigan has gained significant ground —and where we are still unfortunately struggling,” Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy said. “Thankfully, many of the struggles facing Michigan kids in 1990 have improved significantly, but it is deplorable that amidst all that progress, policymakers have not moved the needle on child poverty over the last three decades.”

When it comes to overall child well-being our state ranks 32nd in the U.S. Our state’s ranking has hovered around the low 30s for the past few years, and we remain behind all other Great Lakes states.

In the four categories of health, family and community, economic well-being and education, the overall trend data shows that compared to last year, our state has slightly improved in all four areas.

Nationally, Michigan ranks:

  • 30th in Economic Well-Being (an improvement from 31st last year): Approximately 25 percent of children live in households with a high housing cost burden and 29 percent of children have parents who lack secure employment.

  • 37th in Education (an improvement from 38th last year): The data shows 68 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading while 69 percent of eighth graders aren’t proficient in math. About 52 percent of young children (ages 3 and 4) are not in preschool.

  • 29th in Family and Community (an improvement from 30th last year): The percentage of children in single parent families has slightly grown to 35 percent. Approximately 15 percent of Michigan children live in high-poverty areas.

  • 18th in Health (an improvement from 25th last year): The number of children without health insurance in Michigan continues to drop; the data shows 3 percent of children don’t have health insurance.

According to the data, Michigan is one of 12 states that has experienced a decline in our child population since 1990. However, our state has further diversified in racial/ethnic makeup since 1990 with more kids of color. The Casey Foundation says the growing diversity of our child population makes it critical to address systemic racism and increase opportunities for all kids.

“America’s children are one-quarter of our population and 100 percent of our future,” Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation said. “All of the 74 million kids in our increasingly diverse country have unlimited potential, and we have the data, knowledge and evidence to create the policies that will help them realize it. It’s incumbent on us to do just that.”

The foundation recommends urgently addressing ethnic and racial inequities, along with other policy recommendations.

  • Provide the tools to help families lift themselves up economically. Federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit programs mean working parents can use more of their take-home pay to meet their children’s needs. Last week we reported that CMF is part of a broad coalition of organizations which has expressed support for increasing Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 6 to 12 percent.

  • Count all kids. Ensure the 2020 census counts all children, especially those under 5 years old and from hard-to-count communities. As CMF has reported, nationally, about one million young children, or 5 percent of those under the age of 5, were not counted in the 2010 census, making them the largest undercounted age group in the last census. Through the Michigan Nonprofits Count Campaign – led by the Michigan Nonprofit Association and supported by CMF, leveraging the expertise of many CMF members – customized messaging for hard-to-count communities in Michigan will be deployed through grassroots organizations doing on-the-ground outreach in the coming months.

Want more?

Read the full report.

Check out the Michigan KIDS COUNT data profile.








CMF members in the Michigan Opioid Partnership and the state of Michigan announce new efforts to support evidence-based treatment programs

Content excerpted and adapted from a governor’s office press release.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Opioid Partnership announced a unique strategy that combines public and private funds to support innovative and evidence-based treatment programs for people with opioid use disorder. Called a “no wrong door approach,” the strategy removes the barriers to entry for those needing treatment for opioid addiction and helps them get on a path to successful recovery.  

The Michigan Opioid Partnership is a public-private collaborative with a mission to decrease opioid overdoses and deaths through prevention, treatment, harm reduction and sustained recovery.

The partnership is made up of several CMF members: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation, The Jewish Fund and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund as well as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Superior Health Foundation. 

“Opioid overdoses and deaths have hurt families all over Michigan,” Whitmer said. “The number of annual opioid-related overdose deaths in the state has more than tripled since 2011, with 2,053 opioid overdoses in 2017 alone. If we’re going to tackle the opioid crisis and get Michigan families on track to recovery, we need to build strong partnerships between state government, philanthropy, and the medical community. I’m grateful for this partnership and am ready to work with this team and everyone else who wants to reduce opioid deaths here in Michigan.” 

Grants announced last week will fund planning, training and coordination of treatment for opioid use disorder. The collaborative will make funds available to support the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) which is an evidence-based treatment for opioid addition that usually includes both medication and behavioral therapy, from the first point of medical contact in a hospital or emergency room to continued treatment in a community-based program. Funds will also assist jails using a continuity of care approach focused on long-term treatment of opioid use disorder. 

“The Michigan Opioid Partnership is working to support emerging ideas to help solve the opioid crisis,” Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan said. “Serving addiction innovatively in hospital emergency rooms and in county jails can help set the foundation for what is possible across the state.”   

Two hospital systems will receive grants to pilot projects designed to help change the culture in hospitals and emergency rooms to better combat the opioid epidemic. Beaumont Hospital in southeast Michigan and Munson Medical Center in Northern Lower Michigan have been selected to receive funds for pilot projects that utilize medication-assisted treatment in partnership with outpatient treatment providers.

“Hospitals have been selected based on existing institutional support, expertise, capacity and the relationships with community providers that will enable them to carry out this work,” Paul Hillegonds, CEO, Michigan Health Endowment Fund said. “Medical professionals are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and have a key role in the state’s ability to improve addiction treatment and enhance awareness of options to those in need and to save lives.” 


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