Skip to content

The significance of Betsy DeVos appointing John Engler to the National Assessment Board

October 4, 2017

Last week it was reported by MLive, that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had appointed several new people to the National Assessment Board, including former Michigan Governor John Engler. 

The National Assessment Board’s mission is to:

The National Assessment Governing Board was created by Congress in 1988 as an independent, nonpartisan board to set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card.

MLive includes a brief comment from DeVos about the appointment of Engler, where the Secretary of Education says, “He is a tireless advocate for all our nation’s students, and his strong leadership will be a substantial asset to the board.”

The MLive article also mentioned that Engler has been a supporter of Charter schools and, “as governor helped launch the sector in 1993 with an effort to overhaul school funding and the eventual passage of the Michigan Charter School Act of 1994.”

The MLive article didn’t say much more than what is cited above and the same was the case for the announcement in the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

Shortly after John Engler became Governor of Michigan, the issue of public education funding became an issue. Engler had proposed in the summer of 1993 to cuts property taxes by 20%. At the time, as a State Senator, Debbie Stabenow proposed a 100% cut to property taxes.

According to a story on Michigan Radio,

At the time, Stabenow’s move was widely interpreted as an attempt on her part to show how silly it was to cut taxes without specifying new revenues for the schools. If that was its purpose, it backfired. The Senate passed the amended bill the same day, the House followed a day later, and the governor immediately announced that he would sign the bill. With little debate the state had eliminated $6.5 billion in school taxes for the 1994-1995 school year. Absent further action, there would be no way to finance the public schools.

This decision to gut financing for public schools, eventually paved the way for charter schools to be introduced into Michigan.

I remember when this was all happening. Governor Engler came to Grand Rapids in the fall of 1993 to visit what was then called Henry School (now MLK School). There were parents and other activists waiting for the Governor’s motorcade. One parent held a sign that said, “Hey Engler, Remember what happened to Custer.” Engler’s motorcade did not stopped and parents were prevented from speaking with him while he visited the school.

The Michigan Radio piece then goes on to say, “Both Republicans and Democrats worked together to create school choice in Michigan – that issue was not put to voters. The question to voters was how to pay for it. Proposal A increased the state sales tax and tobacco tax to help pay for schools. It also put a cap on how much money local governments could raise to spend on schools.”

Since then the record on the performance of Charter Schools is not good, according to a recent story by The Bridge. And John Engler is certainly a part of that same legacy, a fact that seems to be missed by MLive and the other major dailies in Michigan.

For a listing of those who will join John Engler on the National Assessment Board, see the information that the Secretary of Education posted on each of the new appointees

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: