Graduation Alliance provides technology, educational programming and social support to each student, typically funded by their original school district. When the student completes the program, the high school they initially dropped out of is the institution that provides their diploma. This benefits schools, as it brings drop-out students back into the fold and ultimately increases graduation rate.
Graduation Alliance was challenged in that it was up against existing legislation that affected funding allocated to schools for drop-out students. This funding, which ultimately supports efforts to reengage drop-out students, hinges upon public school count days. With a Spring and a disproportionately-weighted Fall count day for Michigan’s public schools, drop-out students were not funded if they were not present for Fall count, which directly affected the funding that the school districts received for these students.
When Graduation Alliance wanted to bring its services to Michigan, the organization needed to alter count day legislation to ensure school districts statewide would have the funding to support the Graduation Alliance model. That’s when the organization turned to MLC.
In 2011, Graduation Alliance came to MLC to help them propose a monthly count date for returning out of school youth. This would be a major change to state law, allowing the individual schools to receive the funding needed to support students’ engagement with Graduation Alliance. As an out-of-state firm, the organization was having difficulty making headway in Michigan. Graduation Alliance was proposing a monthly count for out of school youth and had to quickly overcome the preconceived notion that they were trying to create a 1/12 model for all students. Something that traditional bricks and mortar schools were opposed to for their traditional students.
MLC took on the challenge of demonstrating to the Michigan Department of Education that this new program is a viable and valuable way to provide education outside of the classroom – and in many cases, to students that otherwise were not receiving any education services because students were not able to meet time and place requirements of the traditional educational model. In addition, MLC also had to assure the K-12 community that this program was not a threat to the current school funding model but an asset to secure funds for returning students. The next step in the process was to engage legislators and reform the law.
MLC rose to the occasion to secure bill sponsors who didn’t just agree with the approach but had a deep, vested interest in the program’s goal to reengage out of school youth. This allowed these sponsors to truly own and advocate for the proposed legislation. Building an advocacy plan that hinged on getting the support of the Department of Education also was key to the process.
MLC used its expertise in legislative advocacy to implement the desired outcome. The team’s strategic insights and position as process and procedural experts were valuable assets to Graduation Alliance, as swift decision making was critical to achieving the organization’s objective.
Legislation that altered the traditional count day process was passed within 14 months of MLC engaging with Graduation Alliance, approximately 10 months ahead of the planned timeframe. The new legislation provided an avenue for Graduation Alliance to work with school districts to secure the funding needed to implement a Dropout Recovery Program based on industry best-practice, and Graduation Alliance was then able to move forward with its business plan. To date, Graduation Alliance has experienced success, re-enrolling 80 percent of all out of school youth they are able to contact for the schools they support.
Success for Graduation Alliance was directly tied to MLC’s responsiveness, valuable relationships with legislators and a commitment to developing and executing the right strategy to get results.
For more information on how MLC can help you tackle your challenges, contact us today.