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Whitmer to give Michigan parents a ‘seat at the table’ with new council

governor gretchen whitmer speaks into a microphone at a podium with the words MI kids back on track in front of a united states flag as a crowd looks on

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday she is creating a council to give parents a “seat at the table” on education issues.

State of Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Friday creating a parents council to advise her administration on issues ranging from pre-K through high school education. 

The move comes as Republicans in Michigan and around the country are calling for states and school districts to give parents more control over their children’s education. 

“As a mom, I know that parents are their children’s first and most important teacher, and when parents and schools are close partners, kids thrive,” Whitmer said in a news release following the signing.  

The nine-member Michigan Parents’ Council would ensure “parents have an empowered seat at the table in Michigan,” such as by convening regional meetings with families across the state to “bring in as many voices as possible.” 

The governor appoints who is on the council, which left Republicans skeptical. 

Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said given that Whitmer is running for reelection this year, he would be surprised if she appoints members who aren’t “singers of the choir.” 

“Whenever I do anything in Lansing that has a controversy to it, there’s two or more sides to it, I get everyone in the room. I want to hear the most vocal people on both sides on the issue,” Runestad told Bridge Michigan. “I believe that the governor will not do that. We’re going into an election year — she’s not going to have vocal critiques” of the state education system.

The council will include seven parents or family members of students who “represent diverse student experiences, including special education, English as second language students, and students in foster or kinship care,” the news release said. 

The group is to discuss such topics as how to combat “unfinished learning and supporting children’s mental health,” the executive order states. It will then share its findings with the Whitmer administration and State Superintendent Michael Rice and submit a report by mid-December (after the November elections) on major themes and recommendations for the governor’s budget proposal. 

In February, the Michigan Senate approved a nonbinding resolution that called on the governor to “publicly acknowledge the fundamental right of parents over the upbringing of their children, including a central role in what it is their children are learning.” 

Conservative politicians and family groups have also backed measures around the country pushing back against what they portray as “woke” classroom instruction on issues like race, U.S. history, sexual identity, and sex education. 

Republicans have also criticized Whitmer’s veto of student opportunity scholarships, which she and other Democrats oppose, calling them a form of school vouchers. 

“Unless and until Governor Whitmer allows money to follow students and parents to make the decisions that are best for their children, this is political theater and a slap in the face to parents still struggling to recover their kids from pandemic learning loss,” State Board of Education Member Nikki Synder, R-Dexter, said of the Whitmer-created parents council.  

If you are interested in applying for the council, go to www.michigan.gov/Whitmer/Appointments. Click “apply now” and select “Michigan Parent’s Council.” Applications are due by August 8 at 5 p.m.

Isabel Lohman is a reporter for Bridge Michigan. She can be reached at ilohman@bridgemi.com

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