The Michigan Democratic Party has deleted a weekend Facebook post that questioned the role parents have in deciding what is taught in public schools and drew criticism from conservative and school choice groups.
The Democratic Party post, which appeared to be a screenshot, indicated the purpose of public education was to teach students “what society needs them to know.”
And parents who want more input on what their kids are learning, the post said, “have the option to choose to send their kids to a hand-selected private school at their own expense.”
“The client of the public school is not the parent, but the entire community, the public,” according to the post.
In a Monday social media message, the party said it had deleted the post from its Facebook page. Before it was taken down, the Facebook post had been shared about 2,500 times.
“Parents need to have a say in their children’s education, end of story,” the Democratic Party said Monday. “The post does not reflect the views of Michigan Democrats and should not be misinterpreted as a statement of support from our elected officials or candidates.”
Republicans blasted the message over the weekend, noting that Michigan’s revised school code said determining and directing the education and teaching of a child is the “natural fundamental right of parents and legal guardians.”
“The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment,” the law says.
The Saturday Facebook post followed months of heated Michigan school board meeting debates about pandemic school closures, student mask mandates and the possibility of teaching critical race theory. The post also came amid a push for a tax-incentivized scholarship program that could be used at private schools.
Republican operatives launched a petition initiative to push through the scholarship program after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed legislation proposing the same plan. The Democratic governor compared it with failed DeVos-backed school voucher proposals and said it would violate the state Constitution by giving public funds to private schools.
By pushing the policy through the ballot initiative process, organizers can send the signed petition to the GOP-led Legislature for approval and avoid the governor’s veto.
Michigan’s Republican candidates for governor as well as conservative and school choice groups from across the nation criticized the Democrats’ Saturday post on social media and in press releases.
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, said “parents are the true stakeholders” in their kids’ education.
“Parents that expect more out of their local public school, and hold them accountable, should not be told to get out their checkbook and hit the road,” Craig said in a statement. “They have already opened their checkbooks by paying their taxes and deserve high-quality education for their children.”
Metro Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke, also a GOP hopeful for governor, said “this nonsense will end” should he become governor.
“Parents, not bureaucrats, will make the decisions on what’s best for their children’s education,” Rinke wrote.
The school choice group Great Lakes Education Project asked state leaders to denounce the “classist” message.
“The party’s classist attack on low-income and other parents is absolutely astonishing — and very telling. Public school is about kids, not Democrats’ political policy agenda,” said Beth DeShone, an executive director for the group.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, also condemned the message.
“This is a slap in the face of parents who might not have the means to afford private school but who still expect and DESERVE a say in the education of their children,” Shirkey said on Twitter.
Republican former state Rep. Gary Glenn of Midland pointed to the success of Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who flipped Virginia’s Democratic leadership on promises to restores parents’ right to have a say in curriculum.
“Thank you to the MI Democratic Party,” Glenn wrote on Facebook. “Doubling down despite what happened in Virginia gov’s race, the gift that keeps on giving.”
GOP state Sen. Lana Theis used the post in a fundraising email for her re-election campaign, calling the post a “shut-up-and-sit-down” message to Michigan families.
“This is what I’m up against in Lansing,” said Theis, R-Brighton. “Teacher unions, government bureaucrats, and tyrants who make up the rules as they go along and tell us to keep quiet and let it happen.”
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