Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s rebellion hurts our kids

Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake

This column was originally published in The Detroit News.

Senate Republicans believe we can and must do better when to it comes to teaching our kids to read. Our children deserve better. The roughly 5,000 children that are projected to fail their reading benchmark should be a rallying cry to us all to do more to help our children succeed.

Instead, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer chose to use these children as a rallying cry to amass support from community leaders to help schools and parents circumvent our reading law.

We are embarrassed by this display of unlawful resistance from our governor.  Michigan’s third-grade reading law was passed in 2016 with bipartisan support. As written, the law contains provisions for legitimate exemptions to retention along with substantive latitude for judgment by parents and educators. These exemptions are intended to be the exception, not the rule.

To blatantly and unabashedly demonstrate complete disregard for the law, and by doing so, continue to set too many of our kids up for failure is disturbing and embarrassing for our state. Our governor’s call to ignore the law and essentially abandon these children is outrageous.

What is even more infuriating is the fact that a few short months ago, Whitmer vetoed funding for programs to help children learn to read. The hypocrisy on the part of the governor is off the charts.

Senate Republicans take this issue very seriously. We will be reviewing the third-grade reading law for ways to improve it. We will explore what can be done to minimize the number of children who are not promoted to the next grade. We will listen to educators and parents on how we can work together to accomplish what should be a non-partisan and universally aligned goal.

Leadership requires problem-solving.  We should be focused on how we ensure our education system does not fail our children, rather than throwing in the towel and inciting rebellion.

We know our teachers are faced with a difficult job. Their jobs are made even more challenging by onerous state mandates, distractions from outside the classroom, and issues that once were only within the realm of parents. Student reading deficiencies are not an indictment on our teachers. It is an opportunity to work with educators to help find solutions that ensure our children succeed. 

No law is perfect. Laws are made by people and we are all uniquely flawed.

Whitmer must reconsider her irresponsible strategy to ignore the law and instead roll up her sleeves and join us in making reading the top priority for our education system. Our governor can begin by making a passionate call to parents and guardians to encourage early literacy experiences. 

We must carve out time to read and talk with our kids. That simple act will pay the highest dividends for our children and our society and will help ensure our kids are ready to graduate third grade.

How impactful was this article for you?

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now