LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – The first ever Michigan Parents’ Council, an advisory group created to further include parents in the education budget process, was announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Monday.

The council aims to represent parents from across the state and parents of students with various educational needs. It will bring parents together to take part in regional series of roundtables to gather input.

Jennifer Figler, a resident of Gwinn, is one of 11 members appointed by the Whitmer. A release from the governor says Figler is an active volunteer in her community and was previously a breastfeeding peer helper.

The council was originally intended to be made up of seven members, but was increased after a large response from parents across Michigan, according to Whitmer.

“Parents are their children’s first and most important teacher, and we need their input to help our kids thrive in school,” Whitmer said. “Today, I am proud to announce the members of the Michigan Parents’ Council who will represent the parent perspective and ensure that parents have an empowered seat at the table in Michigan. We need parents’ perspectives to help our kids learn in-person, tackle unfinished learning, and get on track for long-term success. The bipartisan education budget I just signed delivers record resources to our schools, and with the input of Michigan parents, we can help schools implement this historic funding.” 

The full list of appointees and a short bio from Whitmer’s release is as follows:

  • Blanca J. Astua, of Holland, is a health promoter for Strangers No Longer.  
  • LaQuitta Brown, of Detroit, is a certified nursing assistant at Boulevard Temple Care Center in Detroit and as a COVID-19 health screener for Great Lakes Wined and Spirits.  
  • Jennifer L. Figler, of Gwinn, is an active volunteer in her community and a former breastfeeding peer helper.  
  • Cindy E. Gamboa, of Detroit, is the director of community organizing and advocacy for the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.  
  • Sarah Kucher, of Birch Run, is a senior commodity buyer for ValuePoint Solutions.  
  • Yazeed Moore, of Grand Rapids, is a senior programs officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  
  • Bailey Nuss, of Traverse City, is the Northwest region impact director for the United Way of Northwest Michigan.   
  • Ranya Shbeib, of Bloomfield Hills, is a co-founder and board member of the Muslim Foster Care Association and a member of the Michigan Foster Care Review Board.  
  • Tracey Troy, of DeWitt, is a project manager for Dart Container Corporation and president of the Michigan PTA. The Governor has designated Ms. Troy to serve as the Chair of the Council.  
  • Rafael Turner, of Grand Blanc, is the manager of community affairs for Consumers Energy.  
  • Monique Zantop, of Jackson, is a co-founder of Birthbrite.  

In addition to the 11 appointees on the Council, the following parents will participate on behalf of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and Executive Office of the Governor: 

  • Stacy Ann Sipes, of Potterville, is a departmental specialist for MDE and the president of the Potterville Board of Education. Ms. Sipes will represent MDE as the designee of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
  • Stephanie O’Dea is the K-12 education policy advisor for the Executive Office of the Governor. She will serve as the representative of the governor’s office and facilitate the operations of the council.  

The release also includes the following statement on the selection process:

The Council includes appointees who represent various communities and reflect the wide range of experiences and perspectives from across the state. Appointees include parents of children in public, private, and home school learning environments, children in early childhood learning programs, and elementary, middle, and high school students. They also include parents of children with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), children who speak English as a second language (ESL), and children who are in foster or kinship care.

The first meeting of the group will take place virtually on September 20. Regional roundtables of parents and family members will take place in the coming weeks from which input will be shared with the governor’s team and state superintendent.

A report from the council highlighting major themes and summarizing proposals for Michigan’s 2023 budget recommendation will be submitted by December 9 later this year.