Public schools in Michigan have all sorts of problems. Students from around the state are underperforming when compared with their counterparts in other states.
Latest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show Michigan fourth-graders rank 41st in reading — a vital benchmark for determining how well students will do throughout their academic careers. Students lag in other subjects, too.
State Superintendent Brian Whiston and other state leaders want Michigan to become a top 10 state for education, but it has a very long way to go.
Despite the clear academic shortfalls that impact students from all backgrounds, State Board of Education President John Austin is devoting a lot of time to one specific group of students: those who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning).
While it’s fine to raise awareness to the challenges this particular group of students may face, Michigan already has a fairly strong anti-bullying law and model policy that should cover bullying any student may suffer.
Austin has said about 10 percent of Michigan students report to be LGBT, and that schools need additional guidance from the state board regarding this population. That percentage seems high, and not all members of the board are eager to set additional policies related only to LGBT students. The board is currently discussing the issue and could vote on adopting policies later this spring.
It may be politically expedient for Austin to highlight the concerns of the LGBT community, but the state board would be better off staying focused on the matters that impact most students, such as raising the quality of education offered in K-12 schools.