News Story

School Boards’ Politicized Attacks On Upset Parents Bring Calls For More Options

Mask mandates, race-based curriculums, school choice

Parents who don’t accept progressive narratives in politicized debates within Michigan school districts over adopting race-based curriculums and face mask mandates are finding themselves under attack from government officials and special interests groups that represent public education.

In this state, a Grand Ledge teacher called parents who raised concerns over race discussions in the classroom “white supremacists.”

In Bloomfield Hills, a Facebook parents group that favors student mask mandates compiled a list of about 50 “anti-mask” parents it had tracked.

The Bloomfield Hills school board president, Paul Kolin, contacted police about the list. At the next school board meeting, the board stripped him of his title of president.

Elsewhere, the National School Boards Association sent a letter in September to President Joe Biden comparing “acts of malice, violence and threats” during school board meetings to domestic terrorism.

The association also asked that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service monitor cyberbullying attacks.

In response, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI to discuss strategies to address “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against public school officials.

Some see Garland’s and the school board association’s actions as having a chilling effect, with the goal of silencing parents upset over mask mandates and the tone of racial discussions in classrooms.

Republican state representative and former school board member Pamela Hornberger told Michigan Capitol Confidential that such actions explain a loss of faith in public schools:

“It is disgusting that any parent demanding answers from their locally elected board of education and the administrators and staff the board hires, with taxpayer dollars, would be labeled a ‘domestic terrorist.’ This political tactic is being used to scare Moms and Dads into silence. The people using this tactic are shameless political hacks whose ultimate goal is to control all education funding. It is no wonder that parents, families and taxpayers have lost faith in our public schools ability to educate our children and are now demanding control of the per pupil funding via vouchers or tax credits."

Hornberger served on the L’Anse Creuse school district Board of Education from 2010 to 2017. She added, “Every parent and family should be wide awake and demanding accountability at every level in Michigan education.” Hornberger also cited these events as evidence supporting the case for more school choice. “Parents know best what their student needs,” she said. “It is beyond time for Michigan parents and families to decide where their education dollars are spent.”

Former state Rep. Tom McMillin now serves on Michigan’s state board of education. He also thinks the case for school choice has grown.

“The hostility that many school districts are showing, especially lately, toward parents certainly makes a very strong case for more schooling alternatives,” McMillin said. “Not to mention, if more choice were readily available, these districts would undoubtedly be more kind and responsive to the parents. Without more options for these disenfranchised parents, support for taxpayer-funded schooling will decline even more than it has in the past 18 months.”

The case for more choice is at the heart of a recent Mackinac Center Legal Foundation lawsuit against the state of Michigan over tax-favored college savings accounts authorized by a Michigan Education Savings Program. Some parents would like to use money in their accounts to pay for tuition at private K-12 schools. An anti school-choice amendment to Michigan’s constitution adopted in 1970 does not allow that.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also operates the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

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.