K-12 education in Michigan: 'A losing team in a losing league'

January 8, 2019

The metro Detroit region's low unemployment rate, booming rate of construction permits and millennial population and per capita income growth beating national averages is not enough to gloss over the hard truth about an educational attainment rate trailing peer regions.

 

The Detroit Regional Chamber's State of the Region report offers yet another sobering assessment of where Southeast Michigan lags most — and it starts in the classrooms of K-12 schools and continues at the campuses of public and private colleges.

 

"On K-12, I think it's safe to say Michigan is a losing team in a losing league," Detroit Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah said in an interview for the Crain's"Detroit Rising" podcast.

 

The percentage of adults in the region with a post-secondary degree or credential stands at 40.3 percent, well behind competing regions like St. Louis (43.5 percent), Pittsburgh (45.2 percent) and Minneapolis (52 percent).

 

"We continue to shallow against our national competitors and the United States as a whole continues to shallow against our (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) competitors," Baruah said. "So it's not just your neighbor's school district that is struggling — all of our school districts are struggling, even in some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the state."

 

The Detroit Chamber uses its annual State of the Region report to benchmark the region's economic progress. Baruah will present the report's findings to chamber members Tuesday at a luncheon at Ford Field.

 

Southeast Michigan's lagging higher education attainment rate can be traced to other leading economic indicators:

 

  • Median household income rose to $58,411 in 2017, a 12.6 percent increase since 2013 that lags behinds the national average of 15.5 percent.

  • The city of Detroit's 34.5 percent poverty rate has declined from 41 percent five years ago, but remains the highest among peer cities, followed by Cleveland (33.1 percent), St. Louis (20.3 percent), Pittsburgh (20.2 percent) and Atlanta (19.3 percent). The national poverty rate is 13 percent, according to the report.

  • The population of the Detroit metropolitan statistical area grew by 0.3 percent or 7,000 residents in 2017 as the Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh regions posted population losses. But the percentage of metro Detroit's population increase paled in comparison to Minneapolis (4.1 percent), Atlanta (6.7 percent), Seattle (7.1 percent) and Dallas (8.5 percent).

  • The 62.3 percent labor participation rate for adults in southeast Michigan also was the lowest among the peer regions the Detroit Chamber compares metro Detroit to. In Minneapolis, the peer Midwest region with a 12-percentage point advantage over Detroit in adults with degrees and certificates, the labor force participation rate was 72 percent in 2017, according to the report.

 

The labor participation rate made a slight dip from 2016 when it was 62.4 percent.

 

Baruah said the report underscores the need for Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and the new Legislature to focus next year on supporting higher education, skilled job-training programs and Michigan's bottom-rung K-12 educational performance.

 

"What the Legislature and the governor need to do? I would say it's a lot," Baruah said.

 

There are positive signs for the state's economic growth, with a 31.7 percent year-over-year increase in construction permits issued for the region, while the Detroit region's gross domestic product grew by 2.7 percent, beating the national average (2.2 percent), according to the report.

 

"We're still growing, but some of our percentage is not as impressive as it used to be vis-a-vis national competitors," Baruah said.

 

New this year to the Detroit Chamber's report is a section tracking population growth in millennials (ages 25-34). This segment of the population grew by 9.7 percent between 2013 and 2017, trailing just the trendy and booming tech hub of Seattle among Detroit's peer regions.

 

Source: Crain's Detroit

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