Earlier this year, the 21st Century Education Commission issued a warning: Our education system is not preparing our young people to compete with their peers in other states and developed nations. As the report explains: “It is a harsh judgement, but an unavoidable one based on achievement data. Until we are honest about current performance in our state, we cannot demand the changes our education system needs to more effectively support today’s kindergarteners and tomorrow’s college students.”

Fortunately, in addition to identifying challenges, the commission also outlined a comprehensive strategy for turning our education system around. Here are some figures and quotes taken directly from the report, which Public Sector Consultants helped to develop, highlighting the seriousness of the problem and options for improvement.

93 vs. 46

The percentage of children born in Michigan in the 1940s who earned more than their parents compared to the percentage of children born in the 1980s who did. This may mean the American dream of having our children do better than we did is dying.

2.7 percent vs. 14.0 percent

The unemployment rate for Michiganders with a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to those without a high school diploma, showing just how much education matters. “At the individual level, the single most effective strategy to improve [a person’s] economic outlook is education.”

41st and 37th

Michigan’s national ranking in fourth‐​grade reading and eighth‐​grade math performance. “The urgency could not be greater. While it is difficult to face, the data are clear: Michigan’s public education system is dramatically failing our children.”


Where Michigan ranks in fourth‐​grade reading after our lowest‐​income students are removed from the data set. “Some may think that these unacceptable statewide outcomes are a result of changing demographics, but that is simply not true. Michigan’s higher‐​income and white students are also among the worst performing in the country.”


The percentage by which Michigan’s investment in postsecondary education has declined since FY 2007 – 2008. “At the same time, tuition at colleges and universities statewide has been on the rise, and state aid programs have been cut or eliminated.”


The percentage of jobs added to our nation’s economy since 2010 that have gone to workers with at least some postsecondary education.

21 and 9

The number of voting members participating on the commission and the number of months they spent working together to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing Michigan’s public education system and to formulate strategies for improving it.


The number of overarching goals the commission established for all of us — from the legislature to students and from parents to teachers — to “create an education system that is more equitable and produces graduates who are more prepared and more competitive with their peers across the country and world.”


The number of guiding principles the commission identified that will help Michigan create a world‐​class education system. They include: (1) elevating the education profession, (2) building capacity to do what works, (3) investing in an efficient system of public funding, (4) increasing access to postsecondary education, (5) partnering with parents, (6) enhancing accountability, (7) ensuring access to quality learning environments, (8) investing early and (9) updating K – 12 governance.

Note: During 2017, Public Sector Consultants had the privilege of working on three important, high‐​profile projects, all of which brought key Michigan stakeholders together to chart new territory on complex policy issues. First, we helped the Department of Health and Human Services explore how the state might unify Medicaid’s physical and behavioral health systems as called for in Section 298 of the governor’s budget. Next, we assisted the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission with developing a 50‐​year vision for improving the state’s infrastructure system. Then, we facilitated a visioning and consensus‐​building process for the governor’s 21st Century Education Commission. It was an honor to be of assistance to the governor, these commissions and the state on this important work.