Bill doesn’t address real issues affecting Michigan students, schools

LANSING, Mich., Nov. 2, 2021 — Members of the House Democratic Caucus spoke today against House Bill 5097, legislation that bans the teaching of race and gender issues in Michigan’s K-12 schools. Despite addressing the multiple, real issues facing the state’s public schools, bill supporters would rather prohibit the teaching of something that isn’t in classrooms today.

“I’ll be blunt — this bill is a thinly veiled attempt to whitewash our nation’s history,” said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township).”This bill advances the twisted vision of conservative pundits who are working to suppress a full accounting of our history while riling up their base. We cannot support imposing that view on our children.”

The theory that HB 5097 supporters suggest it is addressing is actually a college-level, and in many cases graduate-level, concept that examines blind spots in fairness and equity in local, state and federal laws. It does not teach, as the bill states, that certain people are inherently bad or bear direct guilt for historical wrongs.

“What we need to be teaching in our schools, what our children deserve to learn, is a complete, contextualized history of our country. We need them to understand not just that something happened, but why it happened,” said state Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield). “Whether the bill supporters want to admit it or not, structural racism exists, and for the next generation to have any chance of eradicating it, they need to fully understand the problem. This bill would prevent that, and that’s why I can’t support it.”

House Democrats have consistently worked to improve Michigan’s schools, starting with the introduction of the Respecting Educators package, a group of bills that would take concrete steps to address the teacher shortage plaguing the state. Democrats also supported the School Aid Fund budget passed this year, which brought record investments to public schools and leveled the financial playing field between districts.

“As a former history teacher myself, I can say that teachers know how to navigate sensitive subjects and present material to their students without making them feel guilty or ashamed. Once again, some lawmakers feel that they are in a position to insert themselves into the decisions of trained, professional educators,” said state Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park). “What we really need to be doing as a Legislature is helping kids succeed — more literacy support, lower teacher-to-student ratios, preparing kids for the high-skill, good-paying jobs of tomorrow. This bill does nothing to advance these goals, but that won’t stop my colleagues and I from continuing to fight for what’s best for Michigan schools and their students.”