News Story

Okemos equity plan includes safe space for the marginalized

Learning loss from school shutdowns will cost about $5M to remedy, but the district focuses on a social agenda

Okemos Public Schools experienced learning loss due to the district’s prolonged shutdown and use of online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district was forced to move toward in-person learning March 2021 — a year after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer originally closed schools — or potentially lose state funding, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Although the district will need to address learning loss and recovery, it is prioritizing progressive social issue education for students and staff, according to a draft of the Okemos Equity Plan.

Edunomics Lab is a research center at Georgetown University which developed a calculator to estimate the amount of lost instructional time and its financial impact on districts throughout the United States. It estimates that Okemos Public Schools lost an average of 11 weeks of math learning, which will cost approximately $3.8 million to remedy. The district lost four weeks of reading education, which will cost $930,992 in recovery expenses.

Okemos is using its limited time and resources to teach the ideology of identity. Classrooms full of students who are behind on reading and math are being taught about microaggressions, privilege and marginalization. The proposed equity plan includes teaching about and creating affinity spaces for staff and students who are defined as marginalized. People qualified for marginalized status include LGBT individuals, those who practice a religion other than Christianity and nonwhites.

It calls for affinity spaces for groups with commonalities such as race or sexual orientation.

The Okemos district proposes to build a system around the equity plan and to expand its sphere of influence to include students’ families and the community. Teachers will be required to use various instructional strategies for students with different learning styles.

It is unknown how much it will cost to carry out this plan, or how much time during school hours will be dedicated to outreach. John J. Hood, superintendent of Okemos schools, did not respond to a CapCon request for comment.

The draft equity plan will use the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework, developed by the New York State Education Department. Staffers will be required to participate in anti-bias/anti-racist learning, including a course through Justice Leaders Collaborative.

The Justice Leaders Collaborative website promotes critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion.

One goal of the proposed equity plan is to develop a “district culture in which students, staff, families, and community members” prepare for a diverse world. Another goal is for students to become change agents.

Lessons given to staff and students will include topics such as microaggressions, ableism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, white supremacy, anti-blackness and land acknowledgement.

“Land acknowledgment” is a statement made by students and staff that school buildings are on land was once owned by indigenous people.

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.