AFT Michigan Statement Regarding Knollenberg’s Racist Comment at Education Hearing

Senator from Troy said, “We can’t make an African American white. We can’t fix that.”

 MICHIGAN — Today, the American Federation of Teachers Michigan responded to Republican Senator Marty Knollenberg’s comments made during a Thursday Senate Education hearing on low-performing school districts.

Addressing Natasha Baker with the State School Reform Office and Karen McPhee, an education advisor with Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, Sen. 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. It is what it is. So we can’t fix that.”

“What Sen. Knollenberg said about kids in struggling schools is racist and is a major step backwards in improving education for our children,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan. “If a child is struggling academically, it is not because of a problem inherent to their race or ethnicity.”

Further, the problem of poor academic achievement in Michigan disproportionally hurts students of color and students living in poverty, however, the 2015 Michigan Achieves Report clearly shows that this crisis of downward trending achievement transcends race, income and zip code.

“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,” Hecker continued. “Let’s stick to using research to improve education policy. Racist remarks only set us back.”

You can see and hear Sen. Knollenberg’s remark and the full committee recording at the Michigan Senate website here. Sen. Knollenberg’s comments are made  around the 42-minute mark.


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