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State Board of Education considers resolutions on teaching shortage, pandemic response

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Vaccines and mask mandates dominated the public comment portion of Tuesday’s Michigan Board of Education meeting.

The board doesn’t have the authority to implement either, but it did consider a resolution supporting masking and COVID-19 testing policies.

Former teacher Bonnie Wood was among the dozens who spoke during public comment. She said it was still important for her to show up, since the school board can influence the state Legislature.

“So, if they’re for mandating it, their position is going to be more swayed than the other. So, in the mix of things, it’s very important what they think,” Wood said.

The resolution ultimately failed, to the disappointment of Democratic board member Dr. Pamela Pugh. She said it would have been a powerful step for the Democrat-led board to push the Democratic governor’s administration to act.

“We’ve had back and forth conversations via correspondence and the responses that I have received are not good enough to keep our children in classrooms and keep them healthy and keep our teachers safe,” Pugh said.

Pugh pointed to Michigan’s significantly higher case numbers and positivity rate compared to spring 2020 when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration implemented COVID-19 prevention measures in full force.

“So, we know that we have an impact on the education of our children. We have an impact on the family unit. Those things cause trauma. But we also know we have children who are being hospitalized at higher rates,” Pugh said.

On the other side of things, Republican board member Nikki Snyder said she’s glad the resolution failed.

“The government shouldn’t be making those choices for students and for families. And therefore, once they put themselves in that position to make those decisions for students and families, politics become involved,” she said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board did adopt a resolution supporting teacher retention and recruitment efforts through largescale investment.

The school board also approved a resolution on teaching comprehensive history. That involved supporting districts “with policy guidance and standards that promote diversity, racial equity and inclusion.”

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