Michigan’s Superintendent of Education Brian Whiston was on the news program “Off the Record” where he talked about efforts to improve public education in the state. During the segment he drew a hard line in the sand on charter schools — one of Michigan Republicans’ favorite education schemes.
Asked about the performance thus far of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Whiston said it was too early to make a complete call, but he skewered the idea that “school choice” — i.e. charter schools — were the silver bullet to Michigan’s education woes.
“School choice is important. I support school choice, but Michigan has proven that school choice isn’t the answer,” he said. “If school choice was the answer, Michigan would be the top performing state because we have more choice than just about any other state.”
Whiston’s sentiment isn’t unfounded. A recent New York Times deep dive into Michigan’s charter frenzy pointed out that, “in unregulated educational sectors like Michigan’s, there’s evidence that charters have actually increased inequality [in school districts] … and districts with high levels of charter-school penetration, the authors found, have fared worst of all.”
Whiston wasn’t done with Betsy after his choice comments, he even went after her affinity for vouchers, which would put public funds in the hands of private, parochial, and for-profit schools and charters.
“We’ll never agree on that,” Whiston said, who has ardently opposed to voucherizing Michigan’s public education system in the past.
“That issue is non-negotiable. I don’t think public tax dollars should be used for private education,” he said.
Two recent studies prove Whiston’s point, showing “evidence that voucher programs don’t improve students’ performance on standardized tests.”
What Michigan needs isn’t more DeVos-backed school experiments with kids’ futures and public funds. We need properly funded schools, well-paid and respected teachers, and a move away from such heavy standardized testing.