Writer Insinuates Racial Politics in DeVos’ Hometown, But Events Rebut Claim

Says Holland Michigan unlikely to financially support its schools — but this month voters did just that

In an article titled, “Want to See How School Choice Leads to Segregation? Visit Betsy DeVos’ Hometown,” freelance reporter Jennifer Berkshire stated that people of Holland, Michigan won’t financially support the local school district.

Berkshire wrote, “And as DeVos well understands, a community that has little stake in its schools is unlikely to shell out money to pay for them.”

A freelance writer who has written for The Huffington Post and Salon, Berkshire said in an email that the passage refers to the chances of residents approving property tax increases placed on the ballot by the school district.

ForTheRecord says: Holland voters approved two school property tax measures on the May 2, 2017 ballot, including one that increased their taxes. An operating millage renewal passed with 83.4 percent approval and a new “sinking fund” tax passed with 75.4 percent in favor.

Michigan law gives parents two public school choice opportunities: charter schools and attending in a neighboring district that has space. School funding is determined by another law, using a complex formula that includes both local and state tax revenues to determine how much each district gets on a per-pupil basis.

Not only does Holland schools have the support of its voters, but it also is better funded compared to the charter school that parents are choosing to send their children to instead.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, Holland Public Schools’ general fund received $11,259 per pupil in state, local and federal funding. The nearby Black River charter school Berkshire referred to in her article (“75% white”) received $8,849 per pupil; figures are for 2015-16, the most recent available.

Black River has become more diversified over time, not less. Established in 1996, 80 percent of its enrollment was classified as “white” in 2003. It’s 72 percent this year.

While it is filled with references and statistics about race, Berkshire’s article was silent on something parents may care more about, how well different schools do at educating children.

“A serious investigation would ask why more families of all races in Holland and surrounding areas are seeking different schools than the ones assigned to them,” said Ben DeGrow, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

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.