Mich. Repub Ripped After Suggesting That Making Black Students White Would ‘Fix’ School Issues

Teachers and fellow lawmakers criticized Michigan state Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R) after he awkwardly inserted race into a discussion on troubled school districts within the state, WXYZ-TV reported.

Footage posted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) shows Knollenberg saying during a state Senate committee meeting on Thursday, “You mentioned these school districts failing, and you mention economically disadvantaged and non-white population are contributors to that. I know we can’t fix that. We can’t make an African-American white. That’s just, it is what it is.”

Knollenberg was speaking to state school reform officer Natasha Baker, who appeared at the hearing alongside Karen McPhee, an education advisor to Gov. Rick Snyder (R). The senator asked Baker what could be done to prevent such schools from “hurting [their] children.”

“Technically, if we do our job well, we don’t need to exist,” Baker responded. “We should be working ourselves out of a job.” 

Baker said her office is working to identify school districts that are improving and gathering data to determine what the “Michigan model” should be.

But though Baker, who is black, did not take issue with Knollenberg’s comment at the time, state Rep. Brian Banks (D) slammed the statement.

“I was disgusted to hear any human, especially an elected official who is responsible for creating policy, to talk that way,” Banks told WXYZ. “It is clear you have some built in racism. It is clear you are out of touch with reality. As an elected official, as one of your colleagues, you owe us an apology.”

David Decker, who leads the AFT’s Michigan office, called Knollenberg’s remark “as racist a comment as anyone can make.” But Knollenberg said his statement was based on his observation of demographics among struggling students. He denied citing race as a specific factor and pointed out that he has a black employee at his insurance company. 

“I can apologize to people who felt that way,” the senator said. “My passion is for improving education and making sure every single child gets a good education. We should not have failing schools anywhere.”

Watch WXYZ’s report, as aired on Friday, below.


Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.