During the second gubernatorial debate between Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon, Whitmer mislead viewers when she claimed, “Mrs. Dixon says I’ve kept students out longer than any other state. That’s just not true… Kids have been out of school for three months” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m pretty sure I just heard an audible gasp across town when Gretchen Whitmer said the kids were out of school for three months,” Dixon responded. “Maybe she wasn’t paying attention to what was really going on.” Audible gasp, indeed. Parents, teachers, and students across the state were subjected to confusing, arbitrary, and inconsistent school closures and a litany of other rules and restrictions regarding their learning for much longer than 3 months. No matter how she tries to spin it, as Governor the buck stops with her and she must take responsibility for what happened now during her reelection bid.
After the debate concluded, Governor Whitmer stated she was referring only to school closures directly resulting from her orders or those from her health department. But that does not address the totality of the issue. By attempting to separate her direct orders from her actions to promote a specific policy later, Whitmer is attempting to have her cake and eat it too. She wants to take credit for what she describes as decisive action to protect kids while simultaneously avoiding blame for the negative effects of those decisions by shifting the blame to others.
While the legislature and the administration were debating the school reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year, Whitmer and her supporters were clearly not in favor of reopening for in-person learning. The Michigan House had approved a plan to require a return to in-person learning for certain grades and Whitmer threatened a veto of that legislation. Whitmer and her supporters framed the position of returning to in-person learning as irresponsible, often insinuating that people wanting such a return do not care about children or are anti-public health. The ultimate result was legislation that allowed local authorities to decide whether or not to reopen in-person. Some school districts in Michigan reopened sooner rather than later, some instituted hybrid rules, and some, including some very large districts, remained closed for in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year or the majority of it. For Whitmer to now try to pass blame for these closures – that have had a proven negative impact on the education of our children – solely onto the local authorities is despicable. Clearly, her influence as Governor was a big factor in crafting the harmful school policy in Michigan that persisted much longer than most other states. The science and the data that have been complied during and since these actions were debated also points to their error and Whitmer, along with most of her colleagues, continue to deny they were unnecessary actions.
For more information, check out this ballotpedia summary of Michgian school closing information. Check out this article for comparison between Michigan and other states to get an idea of the difference. For example, from the article,
“12 percent of Michigan schools were fully in-person in September 2020, compared to 79 percent of schools in Indiana and 57 percent in Ohio. At that time, 22 percent of Michigan schools were fully remote, and the rest were using a hybrid combination, records show. 23 percent of Michigan schools were in-person, 28 percent were virtual, and the rest hybrid by the time Whitmer called on districts to resume in person. At that point, 76 percent of Indiana schools were fully in-person, as were 47 percent of Ohio districts. In contract, in Florida, 96 percent of schools were fully in-person by the end of 2020. 46 percent of schools were fully in-person by March 2021, Whitmer’s goal to return to in-classroom learning. Ten percent were fully remote, and 44 percent were hybrid.”
Governor Whitmer’s attempted obfuscation of the facts to avoid responsibility for the misguided education policy coinciding with the rest of her disasterous COVID response is yet another example of her poor leadership and character. Michigan was indeed closed for in-person learning and had other restrictions far longer than other states and certainly for longer than 3 months. As governor, Whitmer bears responsibility for the harm to our state and our children. The people of Michigan should not reward Whitmer’s terrible behavior and refusal to admit error by reelecting her for another term. She will commit similar errors again given the opportunity. Vote Tudor Dixon for Governor on November 8th!