My road to policy

Logan Drummond

Logan Drummond

In my home county, over a five-year period, the poverty rate for families was at 17.5%, including nearly 20% of children under 18, and over 40% of single parent (female) families. These rates contribute to less revenue from property taxes for schools, which in turn leads to fewer resources for public education than higher-income areas. Gaps in services have been a long-running issue in rural and other communities where many have lower incomes. My experience in my hometown showcases such gaps in the example of school funding and how it can impact students’ experiences.

Lenawee County

Lenawee County

I was born in a rural town in Southeast Michigan. My mother was originally from Belgium, and my brother was on the autism spectrum. Fitting into this town was a difficult and potentially impossible task for our family. Not only were we isolated without family ties and support in town, but we were further alienated because people were unaware of what autism was, so my brother was often the victim of bullying. These experiences led me to become a social worker and a policy advocate, and I want to continue to fight against injustices that any oppressed individuals might face by influencing and informing policy change.

I used to fight bullies, and now I want to fight systemic bullying. The work that the Michigan League for Public Policy does every day—including their advocacy for equity in our society at every level, including public schools—led to my interest in their summer internship. The League impacts state and federal issues, while also taking into account grassroots organizations and the communities affected by these policies.

There may have been avenues in terms of policy that may have prevented what my brother and I experienced, in addition to many other pressing issues in the city. My hometown’s school system was desperately underfunded (my high school principal was also our Spanish teacher, for example). By the time I graduated from high school, most of the best teachers were leaving because of declines in their income and benefits due to budget cuts. Plus, they could find better paying jobs in other districts. If there had been more funding, perhaps there would have been more school staff that could have prevented some of the bullying. There may have been more training for our teachers on how to approach and support someone with autism in their classes.

The impacts of uneven funding per student in public schools can be seen across the state and country. Wealthy communities and their schools have higher property tax revenues so they receive the best educational experience possible. All while schools like mine and in other high-poverty communities receive less funding due to having much lower property values. My city had nearly $2,000 less funding in total resources per pupil than another, more affluent city that was only 20 minutes away. This is another example of the need to promote equity by providing funding based on need.

The reason I want to be a public policy advocate through a social work lens is to find ways of promoting equity in our society, and to try to ensure that fewer people feel bullied thanks to those changes. One example of the Michigan League for Public Policy’s advocacy for equity is their support of the At-Risk Program, which provides funding to increase resources for high-poverty schools. The League raised the concern that the program has been underfunded, and this observation may lead to more increases in the program’s funding, ultimately providing more support to places like my hometown’s schools. My personal experiences with policy and its effects show exactly why I chose to work in policy, and why the Michigan League for Public Policy already feels like a perfect fit.

— Logan Drummond