Many states are struggling with the responsibility of improving their schools. According to the National Education Association, last year Michigan ranked the highest of all of the states in terms of teacher to student ratio.
This is important for a number of reasons. A high student to teacher ration has an overwhelmingly negative impact on the schools, teachers, and students involved. A high student to teacher ratio generally indicates:
- Lower levels of individual attention from the teacher for each student
- High teacher workloads, including time spent outside of the classroom
- Lower levels of spending per student.
- One group supporting education reform explains, “Student-teacher ratios also directly affect per-pupil spending—or the average amount of money spent to educate students in a school, district, or education system. For example, the salaries and benefits paid to teachers and instructional staff can account for up to 75 percent of per-pupil expenditures, so higher student-teacher ratios will typically result in lower per-pupil expenditures.“
So it is no surprise that Michigan educators would want to better understand what they could do to improve their schools.
However, the (non)solution put forth by Committee Vice Chair Marty Knollenberg (R) was not only asinine, it was also racist. During a discussion on failing schools and the factors behind them, Knollenberg said, “You mentioned why these schools fail. You mention the economically disadvantaged and non-white population are contributors to that. And, you know, we can’t fix that! We can’t make an African American white. [grins] It is what it is. So we can’t fix that.”
Not only was this comment blatantly racist – it also ignores the truth of the matter. According to the 2015 Michigan Achieves Report, the Michigan educational achievement crisis is affecting all schools, regardless of their income or the racial makeup of their student population.
The Michigan President of the American Federation of Teachers, David Hecker, sums the situation up best by stating, “What Sen. Knollenberg said about kids in struggling schools is racist and is a major step backwards in improving education for our children. If a child is struggling academically, it is not because of a problem inherent to their race or ethnicity. . . Research tells us what needs to be done to improve our education system and the absurd thought of changing a child’s race has nothing to do with any of it. Let’s stick to using research to improve education policy. Racist remarks only set us back.”
You can see these racist remarks for yourself in the video below.
Featured image is a screenshot from the video. The image and video are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.