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How the West Michigan Policy Forum influences Public Education policy: Why ignoring them is a losing strategy

April 24, 2022

At a recent West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) event, members of the Business Class came together to discuss the future of education in Michigan. 

To help their members learn about education in Michigan and how they can influence the future of education, they invited Corey DeAngelis, who is the Director of Research for the American Federation of Children.

We wrote about DeAngelis, who was also the featured speaker at the School Choice Week event, held in Lansing, where the organizers not only presented a far right educational plan for Michigan, they pushed the Let MI Kids Learn agenda. That event in February was co-sponsored by the DeVos-funded group, the Great Lakes Education Project and the Far Right Think Tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

At the WMPF event, DeAngelis highlighted 3 major points, according to a blog post by the West Michigan Policy Forum.

  1. Michigan parents and guardians want more options for their students’ education. 
  2. Florida students’ educational achievements have increased dramatically since the introduction of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
  3. 2021 saw increased opportunities for students in 18 states and expanded existing opportunities for education in 21 states. 

The first point made by DeAngelis is based on a Mackinac Center survey, where only 517 likely voters were surveyed.

The second point references a state sponsored tax credit scholarship program in Florida, which is based on the Education Freedom Scholarship policy that Betsy DeVos introduced in 2019 as Secretary of Education, which is essentially what the Let MI Kids Learn ballot initiative will do.

The final point that DeAngelis made at the WMPF event, had to do with the claim that there are more states offering education opportunities, which essentially means non-public education opportunities. The source used for the third point comes from Education Next, which is essentially a propaganda outlet for corporate education reform policies such as charter schools, school vouchers, and merit pay, according to SourceWatch. 

DeAngelis is quoted in the WMPF blog post as saying, “Competition is a tide that raises all boats – and it’s as true in education as it is in healthcare and the retail economy.” This quote is important and instructive, since it equates basic human rights, such as education and health care to the retail economy. We all need to understand that this is how the Business Class and those who embraces the principles of Neoliberalism view the world.

Therefore, the three points laid out by DeAngelis are nothing more than a Neo-Liberal Education Strategy, which not only seeks to privatize education, but it also undermines public education and seeks to crush teacher unions. 

The WMPF blog post ends by encouraging members to attend their bi-annual conference in October, where they not only present their public policy agenda for the coming year, but seek to get politicians and political candidates in line with their agenda.  I have written critically about previous West Michigan Policy Forum conferences, but was barred from attending their conference in 2018 and 2020.

Lastly, for those who are concerned about the future of Public Education in Michigan, it is imperative that we come to terms with the influence that groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum have on public education policy. What I find interesting, and alarming, is that teacher unions, Democrats, School Boards, parent groups and community-based organizations rarely even mention groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum. It is my contention that not only should they be monitoring what the WMPF is doing, they should develop clear strategies for countering their policy agenda. 

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