A happy father and child

The beginning of every school year is an exciting time for Michigan’s students, parents, and educators; however, much like last year, the start of the 2021-2022 school year promises to bring its own unique array of challenges. Over the course of the last two school years, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption of services, with periodic and sometimes lasting school closures, a reliance on remote learning, and ever-changing health and safety protocols.

School leaders are now grappling with the consequences of the pandemic’s effect on students, most especially the prospect of addressing lost learning opportunities in Michigan’s most underserved communities. Despite a massive influx of state and federal resources to help schools meet students’ pandemic-related needs, the very magnitude of the funds and the flexibility in their use means that school leaders will have difficult decisions to make about how best to use these revenues.

Although the pandemic has caused new problems for schools, it has also highlighted long-standing ones. Even before the pandemic, Michigan schools were struggling with staffing shortages. The fallout from the previous waves of the pandemic and concerns about the impact of new variants pose serious threats to districts’ ability to adequately staff their schools. Further, the pandemic has made evident that access at home to a computer and high speed internet are critical to a child’s ability to succeed, and that far too many students lack basic access to both.

PPA has played a leading role in making sure leaders across Michigan have had the information they have needed to mitigate these challenges. Over the last two years, PPA has provided evaluation, research, technical assistance, or consulting on:

  • Responding to the impact of COVID-19 through our work with the Council of Michigan Foundations.
  • Educator-informed ways to address staffing shortages through our partnership with the Michigan Education Association, AFT Michigan, and the Middle Cities Education Association to host a series of educator workforce solution summits.
  • Developing a special education remote learning library to help address lost learning opportunities through our work with the Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education and the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children.
  • Inequality in computer and broadband access across the nation through our work with the National Education Association. For more information, see the PPA report: Digital Equity for Students and Educators.

During the upcoming school year, PPA will continue to work with education stakeholders to provide the evidence they need to make informed decisions that will positively impact students, parents, and educators across Michigan.

For more information about PPA’s education services, please contact Dr. Daniel Quinn, Director for Education Policy, at dquinn@publicpolicy.com or Dr. Nathan Burroughs, Senior Research Associate, at nburroughs@publicpolicy.com.