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The West Michigan Policy Forum continues their efforts to undermine public education in Michigan

January 25, 2023

“If we want our economy to thrive, we must invest in its future: our students. We need to make it clear to our lawmakers: we need change that’s going to drive success for our students and our economy. And this year, with Michigan’s new legislative line-up, we need to be louder than ever.”

The above quote is from a recent article posted on the West Michigan Policy Forum’s website, an article from January 9th. Clearly, the WMPF has concerns about the now Democratic Party control of state government, with their point about the need to be “louder than ever” on education and the economy in Michigan.

For the West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF), education policy has been a priority for years. GRIID has been documenting this dynamic over the years, such as when the WMPF helped to craft and then support legislation in 2016, which would eliminated public teacher pensions and force them to adopt a 401k plan. In 2018, the WMPF brought former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to Grand Rapids, advocating that Michigan adopt similar policies that Florida did during his tenure as the Florida Governor, policies that would undermine public education and push for more Charter Schools and Private education opportunities.

Last April, the WMPF brought in  Corey DeAngelis, who is the Director of Research for the American Federation of Children, who made three issues for the future of education in Michigan:

Lastly, during their Fall 2022 Conference, the WMPF had a session on education, with the headline, Reimagining Michigan’s Failing Education System and Making Michigan a Top 10 State. The 2022 WMPF conference addressed two aspects of what they referred to as a failed education system in Michigan. First, the speakers discussed how to move Michigan more in the direction of what Betsy DeVos has been advocating for over the past 3 decades, a more privatized educational system with charter schools, religious schools and private elite schools. The second aspect of the education-themed conference is to discuss the need to gear education in such a way as to generate talent, specifically labor talent, which is why there were several business people speaking during that session, along with the fact that the majority of those in attendance were business people.

A morning session on education policy at their Fall 2022 Conference was entitled, A Game Plan for K-12 Transformation in Michigan, Next steps for Education Transformation in Michigan. This presentation was given by Don Nielsen, with the American Center for Transforming Education. The American Center for Transforming Education is part of the Discovery Institute, which advocates for Public Education Reform. What they mean by Public Education Reform is to push School Choice, to change education policy, make schools places that work with the business community to meet market demands through talent creation.

At the second morning session on education policy, there was another panel to react to the comments by Don Nielsen. The panel consisted of Rep. Pamela Hornberger, John Kennedy (Autocam Medical) and Kelley Williams-BolarSchool of Choice Advocate. Rep. Hornberger is the Chair of the House Education Committee, and last year she introduced a House resolution on Wednesday condemning the Michigan Department of Education’s teacher training videos on student gender orientation and reaffirming the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. John Kennedy is part of the Executive Board with the WMPF and has been one of the most consisted WMPF members to speak out against Public Teacher Unions. Lastly, Kelley Williams-Bolar, an African American parent, went to jail for sending her kids to a highly ranked school near where her father lives, which was out of her home school district. Now, the far right is using her to push their own education agenda. 

If the West Michigan Policy Forum gets their way, they will radically alter education policy in Michigan and effectively undermine public education for decades to come. We all need to know about their policy work and there needs to be a significant effort, even a social movement, to prevent them from achieving their goals for public education in Michigan. Unfortunately, the work of the West Michigan Policy Forum is under-reported and operates outside of the view of the public.

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