Whitmer’s Rhetoric on School Closures Doesn’t Match Reality
Gov. Whitmer used executive orders and the bully pulpit to close schools
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is making interesting new claims regarding how she “made it a priority to get kids back in class” during the pandemic.
A look at Whitmer’s record, however, says otherwise.
For two years, she used executive powers to shut down Michigan schools without legislative collaboration.
- In March of 2020, Whitmer ordered the shut down schools across the state, saying, “Closing our K-12 school buildings is the responsible choice…”
- In November 2021, Whitmer and her appointed team forced all high schools to close by a pandemic order issued via the state health department that she oversees. At a press conference, the governor declared that high schools were “inherently more risky in terms of COVID spread than our younger grades.”
- On April 2, 2021, despite mounting evidence that schools were safe and that remote learning had been detrimental to student development, Whitmer used the bully pulpit of the governor’s office to pressure schools into closing again by saying that it “would be prudent for schools to consider keeping students virtual for a week after spring break,” regarding COVID-19.
- In July 2021, the Michigan House voted 60-48 to adopt a petition brought through a citizen petition drive to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. The citizen’s initiative was motivated by the Governor’s heavy-handed use of Executive Power.
But Governor Whitmer continued her advocacy for school closures. In August 2021, Whitmer again asked high schools and youth sports to shut down, saying, “I’m urging high schools and youth sports to voluntarily suspend in-person activities for the next two weeks.”
Whitmer’s conflicting message on in-person learning is not simply the result of having learned more about the virus since the pandemic began last spring. It has long been clear that children are significantly less susceptible to the virus than adults. It was also apparent very early on that full-time remote learning caused significant learning loss in a majority of students. We knew at the onset of COVID how important school environments are in the social and emotional development of children and that parents, especially low- income, working parents, rely on schools as they juggle the demands of their daily lives.
Upon closer examination, it appears the governor is leaving out the rest of the story on her record of attempting to close our schools.