By JADEN BEARD
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan ranks 27th nationally in its residents’ education levels, according to a new study.
The analysis compared states on 18 criteria in three categories: quality of education, attainment rates and achievement disparities between race and/or gender.
Attainment refers to the rate at which students continue their education, taking into account how many adults over 25 have received a high school diploma, completed some college, got a bachelor’s degree or earned a graduate or professional degree.
Michigan’s slightly-below-the-middle-of-the-pack ranking could make the state less competitive for jobs and business, according to business leader Brian Calley.
Massachusetts topped the list with an overall score of 83.03 (of 100), ranking 1st for both quality of education and educational attainment.
West Virginia was at the bottom with an overall score of 22.40, ranking 47th in quality of education and 50th in educational attainment.
Michigan ranked in the bottom half, with an overall score of 27. It ranked 26th for educational attainment and 28th for quality of education.
That places the state in WalletHub’s low education level and low income level category.
Michigan’s performance was similar to that of nearby states, with most of them placing at or slightly below the middle.
Ohio ranked 34th and Indiana 38th. Illinois was in the top half at 16th, as was Wisconsin at 20th.
Calley, the chief executive officer of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said that Michigan’s ranking raises concerns about the state’s low labor participation rate. That is the percentage of the population that is working or actively searching for jobs.
“Education is one of the main drivers of economic opportunity and competitiveness of the workforce, so we’re focused on a broad people-based agenda aimed toward removing obstacles to people in the workforce,” Calley said.
Michigan has fallen behind much of the rest of the country in overall education performance, student retention rates and reading and math scores at a time when education funding is at an all-time high, Calley said.
“We know that it’s not just a money issue. We desperately need alignment between what kids are learning and what they need to be successful in an increasingly global economy,” he said.
Trina Tocco, the director of the Michigan Education Justice Coalition in Detroit, said the state has underinvested in schools for decades.
That situation can’t be fixed with one-time federal stimulus funding, she said.
“There has been significant one-time investment in our schools because of the stimulus funds, similar to many of our other government institutions,” Tocco said. “However, that money runs out. So, yes, the real dollars have grown,” but not at the necessary pace.
Tocco said that the historical underfunding of schools pose many challenges for individual schools, leading to a lower quality of education.
“For our kids to learn, they need to feel safe, and have a good connection with the schools that they’re at. At the same time, our staff need to feel safe and secure,” she said.