Exclusive — Watch: Michigan GOP Slams Gretchen Whitmer for Disastrous School Policies

The Michigan Republican Party is releasing an ad outlining several ways Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) “failed” the students of her state and fought to close down schools.

The ad, titled “Whitmer Failed Our Students,” provided to Breitbart News in advance of its release, features headlines and newscasters detailing the dismal state of Michigan’s public schools.

“Michigan is shaping up to be the latest battleground for education after the state Democrat party dismissed parents and what their kids learn inside of the classroom,” one of the newscasters says, referring to a Facebook post in which the state Democrat Party dismissed parents entirely, arguing that they are not “the client of the public school.”

“Not sure where this ‘parents-should-control-what-is-taught-in-schools-because-they-are-our-kids’ is originating, but parents do have the option to choose to send their kids to a hand-selected private school at their own expense if that is what they want,” the now-deleted post began [emphasis in original]. “The purpose of a public education in a public school is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know.” [Emphasis in original].

Doubling down on the anti-parent sentiment, Whitmer herself initially intended to campaign with failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), but eventually backed out.

McAuliffe infamously sank his own campaign by saying on the debate stage with now-Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

But that was not the only message Whitmer was signing up to campaign for. McAuliffe also said parents who are concerned with critical race theory in their children’s schools were “racist” and then continued to lie about its prominence in Virginia schools, calling the issue a “dog whistle.” Furthermore, McAuliffe campaigned with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who applauded Attorney General Merrick Garland’s call to sic the FBI on concerned parents — using “counterterrorism tools” — after the National School Boards Association asked that they be investigated as “domestic terrorists.”

But Whitmer’s connection to detrimental school policy goes much further.

While the Michigan Democrat promised in her 2021 State of the State address that schools would be open to in-person learning by March of that year — claiming that the coronavirus pandemic “stole” precious schooling time from children — many of the Great Lakes State’s largest school districts remained shuttered.

Detroit, for example, refused to open until January 2022, along with Battle Creek and Lansing. Ann Arbor was sued because the closures arguably violated civil rights law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Flint’s public schools, however, remain closed indefinitely.

All of this happened at a time when the American left was quick to turn a blind eye on the ensuing educational, developmental, and mental health disaster the country is now in as a result of policies like these.

Indeed, Americans have known since very early on in the pandemic that “virtual learning” has been a disaster for the wellbeing of children — who are also at the lowest risk for serious illness from the virus.

In the middle of 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged school officials to open schools for in-person learning, warning of spiking depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among children.

Furthermore, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy pointed out that “depression and anxiety symptoms for youth around the world had doubled during the pandemic and that clinical data also revealed that ‘suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019.’”

“‘Pandemic-related measures … made it harder to recognize signs of child abuse, mental health concerns, and other challenges’ children were facing given the ‘reduced in-person interactions among children, friends, social supports, and professionals such as teachers [and] school counselors,’” Murthy’s study stated.

Physical and emotional health were not the only things to see a precipitous drop from these policies — educational performance did, too.

A study done by Michigan State University found a widening achievement gap between students who did “remote learning” versus in-person schooling. The gap widened the most among black, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students.

Indeed, according to the study, half of black fourth grade students started the 2020-2021 school year significantly below grade level on exams. By the end, two-thirds of black fourth graders were in the same position.

Latino students followed the same trend, starting the school year with 35 percent underperforming, but ending with 43 percent.

Meanwhile, while private schools largely stayed open, Whitmer has a record of being fiercely anti-school choice.

When Whitmer announced her bid in 2017, she immediately made it clear she had a negative view of charter schools, saying she wanted to “put some accountability into charter schools.”

Later on the campaign trail, she vowed to put onerous regulations on charter schools, such as banning them from contracting for-profit management companies. At the time, Michigan Association of Public School Academies President Dan Quisenberry said of Whitmer’s plan that “blaming people is not a vision for education,” and described the Democrat as “playing politics” with education policy.

Since taking office, she has gone after charter schools.

In 2019, the governor line-item vetoed a $35 million per-pupil increase for charter schools. While keeping the increases for other public schools, Whitmer decided to axe the increases for charters — which are also public. Charter schools are used heavily in places like Detroit, where from 2016 to 2017, 49 percent of students attended public charter schools.

“Gretchen Whitmer shut down schools with the stroke of her pen and the bully pulpit. More than 1.5 million Michigan students were displaced from their schools, friends, and any sense of normalcy at the governor’s whim for months on end,” Michigan GOP Chief of Staff Paul Cordes, said in a press release seen first by Breitbart News. “Unsurprisingly, we now have clear evidence that students who were forced into remote learning actually learned less than their peers who had access to in-person schooling. She has done immeasurable damage to our kids. If she had put half as much effort into opening schools, as she did putting two-year old toddlers in masks, Michigan students would have been in the classroom.”

Whitmer is currently running for reelection in the 2022 midterm.

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.


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