News Story

Birmingham Schools Pay Out $176K For Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Work

Virginia-based consultancy charges a bundle

Birmingham Public Schools paid Hanover Research, a consulting company, $176,000 to assist in its “strategic plan and culture and climate surveys,” according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The company also assisted with a diversity, equity, and inclusion audit and offered recommendations on its site for districts to use with one of its publications, dubbed an Anti-Racism Discussion Guide.

Hanover conducted the work during the years 2020 through 2022. The DEI audit was conducted in winter 2021 and consisted of a survey with 4,305 respondents, including 39% of students, 42% of parents, and 19% of staff.

The district reported it was unable to determine how much of the $176,000 was spent on the audit, which was intended to “provide teachers with professional development focused on equity.” But it noted that “staff surveys indicate unmet demand for professional development on equity-related topics.”

Survey results suggest that classroom discussions do not frequently address equity and that teachers may be unprepared to “support discussions of these issues.” A large share of respondents — 84% — agree that the school district supports individuals from diverse backgrounds. A supermajority — 77% — believe sexual orientation is supported in the schools, and 69% say the same about gender identity.

Recommendations from the audit include:

  • Address disparities in access to advanced coursework, given an underrepresentation in such classes by African American students, the economically disadvantaged, those not proficient in English and students with individualized education programs.
  • Review how disciplinary measures are meted out, given that African American, Hispanic or Latino, economically disadvantaged and students with IEPs are disciplined more frequently than other students.
  • Conduct equity-focused professional development offerings for teachers.
  • Address underrepresentation of African American, economically disadvantaged, and students with IEPs in the “proficient” category on the SAT, M-STEP and NWEA assessments

Embekka Roberson, superintendent of Birmingham Public Schools, did not respond to an email asking if she agreed with the audit findings.

Hanover Research states on its site, “It is imperative for districts and school leaders to cultivate anti-racist schools systems that embrace diversity and advance equity.” The consulting group notes “uprisings against police brutality” and the Black Lives Matter movement bolstered a need for schools to adopt anti-racists systems.

The company created an Anti-Racism Discussion Guide for districts to use. The publication says that ways to be anti-racist include being vulnerable about one’s own biases, understanding privilege, and yielding “positions of power to those otherwise marginalized.”

Birmingham schools announced plans this week to lay off teachers in the face of a budget shortfall. Although the district's teacher roster has increased 2% in the last five years, its non-instructional staff has grown by 26%. In the same period, the student population has shrunk by more than 10%. 

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.