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What Neo-Liberal Education groups in Michigan are pushing for in 2021

January 14, 2021

On Monday, the DeVos-created Great Lakes Education Project posted the following statement on their website:

When it comes to our kids’ schools and learning, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and her administration have spent the last 10 months flouting the science, ignoring the data, and acting against the advice of physicians, medical experts and the CDC.

As Whitmer and her team wilt under the weight of their catastrophically failed vaccine rollout (Michigan is ranked 40th in the United States for COVID-19 vaccine rate), there’s finally some good news for teachers and students.

Last week, the administration announced it’d finally be taking GLEP’s advice, and moving teachers to the front of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Whether they’ll actually be able to get the shots out of the freezer and into their arms is another question.) Then came word that the Governor will gently encourage schools to stop locking kids out of school and allow them to return – in March.

The failures we’ve witnessed over the last 10 months have had a catastrophic impact on Michigan students and families – particularly those in low-income communities. It’ll take years for students to overcome the damage the governor’s unscientific orders caused. Getting them safely back in the classroom is the first, important step on that long journey. It should happen today, not in 7 weeks.

First, this statement comes from GLEP’s Executive Director Beth DeShone, who was a campaign consultant for Dick DeVos, in his failed 2006 campaign to be Governor of Michigan. Since GLEP was created by Betsy DeVos, it makes complete sense that DeShone would be running a DeVos entity.

Second, DeShone offers no clear sources to support the claims she is making in this statement. Yes, she cites physicians, medical experts and the CDC, but with no links to specific pronouncements or data to back up her claims.

Third, if Governor’s Whitmer’s decision to adopt Stay in Place orders was so bad, then why is Michigan near the top of states that has a lower COVID infection/death rate in the US.

Fourth, the recent decision by Gov. Whitmer had absolutely nothing to do with the pronouncements of GLEP, despite their claim. The decision by Whitmer is based on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the guidelines they laid out.

Talent creation and concerns about concerns about the loss of low wage, low skilled jobs

Closer to home, the Grand Rapids-based Talent 2025, has their own take on the COVID crisis and education. Talent 2025 is a group made up primarily of local CEOs who are interested in influencing education policy for the specific purpose of creating future employees – talent – for their companies. In other words, Talent 2025 is interested in how to ensure and increase the profit making capability of the businesses they represent (listed here).

On a recent blog post, Talent 2025 reflected on their work during the COVID crisis in 2020:

In fact, the pandemic has only amplified the importance of our work to ensure a world-class talent supply for West Michigan.

Not only does Talent 2025 shamelessly promote talent creation as the basis of their interest in education, their solution to responding to the low of low wage, low skilled jobs during the pandemic is this:

  • The accelerated and permanent loss of many low-skill, low-wage jobs means new strategies and partnerships will be needed to help the people who lost these jobs upskill to get better jobs, often in other industries.

New strategies and partnerships is really just code for, “we will continue to work with the private sector Capitalist Class to find ways to influence education policy in such a way as to maximize the number of skilled laborers for West Michigan companies. 

The Great Lakes Education Project and Talent 2025 are just two of the numerous groups that are seeking to influence education policy in Michigan. We would do well to remain vigilant to better understand what their efforts mean for education policy and how it should inform strategies for education justice. 

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