Letter from the Executive Director


Since the inception of The Education Trust-Midwest more than a decade ago, we have stayed steadfast in a belief that addressing systemic issues of opportunity gaps is the key to transforming America’s and Michigan’s education system. For more than 10 years, we have built a movement in Michigan by leading and supporting efforts to ensure that all Michigan students — especially Black and Latina/o students and children from low-income backgrounds — have access to a high-quality public education.

This mission has guided The Education Trust for more than two decades, yet it’s one shared by so many Americans, regardless of background or political party. It’s an idea that had its seeds in my own childhood, when wonderful teachers provided me with great teaching and treated me with respect and kindness, grounded in a belief that I could learn at high levels. When the world around me did not encourage me or see me for what I could become, teachers such as Ms. Bonnie Dutton and Mr. Al Jewel saw great potential in me, supported my interests and encouraged me to soar.

Today Michigan’s public schools are filled with children of tremendous potential and committed educators, just as they were when I was growing up. The conditions in which children and educators are working to succeed have changed, though — and often, not for the better. Our state’s public education system has been underfunded for more than two decades. The children who have borne the brunt of this lack of investment and support are those who live in the state’s lower-income communities and urban and rural communities, research shows — and children who often need additional support such as multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Michigan’s K-12 schools’ learning outcomes have been lagging behind leading states. While every Michigan student deserves to be truly well-prepared and supported in school to succeed in pursuing post-secondary opportunities, we are very far from making this vision a reality.

Yet we also know that change is possible. Working alongside a growing number of committed partners, our organization has played a pivotal role in crucial statewide policy changes and supporting equity-driven practices. Over the past three years, we have successfully advanced 76 percent of our legislative priorities, which we delve into in this Impact Report. Our efforts have opened doors to inspiring conversations with leaders in state government, K-12 education, business, civil rights, philanthropy, non-profit and grassroots spaces. We’ve been honored to help build leaders’ and advocates’ knowledge about effective strategies to close opportunity gaps. We’ve taken bold action leading to transformational policy changes; formed effective and durable equity-centered coalitions; researched and spearheaded high-leverage strategies from top education states; and led major public engagement campaigns. We are proud to have served as a leading voice for educational equity in thousands of conversations.

We’ve also evolved. Today we are a different organization, serving as a policy, data, communications, and community engagement backbone to organizations across the Great Lakes State. The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO) statewide coalition reaches 28 counties, 214 local school districts and 219 charter schools. Our collective work touches more than a million students. Recently we’ve also launched a state-wide teacher leadership fellowship with another organization. We explore these new efforts in this report.

We have learned by working together with diverse partners, we can truly address the structural challenges that are dragging Michigan’s public education system behind leading states. Just last year, for example, our collective efforts resulted in the most dramatic overhaul in Michigan’s school funding system in more than two decades. National leaders are recognizing this work as a national bellwether for equitable school funding, including at the renowned 2024 SXSW Festival.

We do our work every day with our mission’s north star guiding us. We believe a high-quality public education is essential for a healthy democracy and a globally competitive economy. It is a right that every child deserves. And it is the key to Michigan’s future.

Mil gracias, a thousand thanks, to the educators, leaders, partners and colleagues around the state and beyond who have made the last decade’s journey brighter due to the work that you do. And most importantly, thank you to the Michigan students who are working hard every day to learn and thrive. Your bright futures inspire this work.

Amber Arellano
Executive Director
The Education Trust-Midwest