LANSING, Mich. (CITC) — Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer reportedly used federal emergency pandemic funds to build teacher development courses on anti-racism and social justice.
Three billion dollars of the $30.75 billion allotted for educational purposes in the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was given to state governor's offices via the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund according to the Department of Education.
Michigan Virtual University, in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, was awarded $1.4 million in GEER funds by Governor Whitmer's office, a report from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General says.
The funds provided were intended to be used to create teacher training resources that instruct school officials on "how to implement the teacher professional learning standards developed by the Governor's Education Advisory Council" (GEAC).
According to professional learning recommendations from the GEAC, a focus on "Anti-Racism/Anti Bias and Social Justice" is among eleven key categories that the advisory council says should be included in continuing education for teachers.
It is not enough to be non-racist; we must be actively and unequivocally antiracist," a document introducing GEAC's social justice and anti-racial priorities states.
The GEAC was established via executive order in 2019 by Governor Whitmer, who also appointed all 15 members of the public who serve on it.
Another document from the GEAC indicates that "Social Justice & Anti-Racist Educator Resources" should aim to "help colleagues begin, continue, and further their own work to FIRST educate themselves and then bring anti-racist teaching to all grade levels and subject areas."
In September, the governor's allotment of GEER funds to Michigan Virtual came under scrutiny after the federal education inspector general indicated it could not "support" that the funds awarded were "deemed essential for carrying out emergency educational services."
The anti-racism and social justice professional learning programs offered by Michigan Virtual include "Anti-Racism and Social Justice Teaching and Leadership, Anti-Racist Trauma-Informed Practice in PreK-12 Education, Social-Emotional Learning: Equity Elaborations and Social-Emotional Learning: Assessment Mechanisms."
Teachers who take the "Anti-Racism and Social Justice Teaching and Leadership" course will learn how to recognize racism, privilege "and their manifestation in school and society." They will also "analyze theoretical frameworks (the whys and hows) for anti-racist teaching and social justice teaching and leadership, "describe systemic oppression and strategies to move from recognizing it to acting to dismantle it" and "investigate ways for connecting with staff, families, and the community to engage with issues of justice and equity."
Republican lawmakers in Michigan's legislature have attempted to pass measures to ban critical race theory instruction in classrooms, following the lead of other states that have already prohibited it.
The National Desk (TND) reached out to Governor Whitmer's office for comment on the U.S. Education Department's inspector general report indicating her GEER fund allotment to Michigan Virtual likely did not support the emergency needs outlined by the CARES Act. TND did not immediately hear back, but if a response is received, this story will be updated.