Members of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) social studies standards review committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide a public comment on the revision of the Michigan Social Studies Standards. The Heartland Institute is a 34-year-old independent, national, nonprofit organization whose mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Heartland is headquartered in Illinois and focuses on providing national, state, and local elected officials with reliable and timely research and analyses on important policy issues. Heartland would like to submit the following comments on the proposed standards.
Pushing politics into America’s classrooms became the norm after Congress passed No Child Left Behind, and it was ramped up when the Common Core State Standards were introduced by the Obama administration. These federal standards have been met with derision because of their one-size-fits-all nature and politically driven agenda.
Members of the MDE review committee, these social studies standards take the same flawed approach by imposing a partisan, ideological agenda on the students of Michigan. This strategy is destined to fail, because the proposed standards will inevitably end up being rewritten again with a different ideological agenda after political winds shift. This process will surely repeat itself over and over, and the children of Michigan will be worse off for it.
Instead of continuing down this path, it is time to consider an approach that will gradually remove politics from the classroom and return it to being focused solely on education and the pursuit of knowledge. How can this be achieved? Simply by empowering parents with complete education freedom.
Instead of drafting statewide standards, Michigan should create a universal education savings account program, in which the state would place a set amount of money into a student-specific account. Parents could then use the account to choose a school or other education opportunity that best fits the needs of their children, and one of the criteria parents could use is the curricula taught. This will cause schools to willingly compete to have the best curricula and teaching methods available to attract the most students. MDE can then focus on other tasks, such as better reporting techniques to provide parents with improved school comparison tools so that they can make more informed decisions.
The overwhelming majority of the available empirical evidence on education choice programs show education savings accounts and other similar reforms offer families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their widely diverse needs and desires, and that they do so at a lower cost while simultaneously benefitting public school students and taxpayers, decreasing segregation, and improving civic values and practices.
To ensure students are properly instructed in schools receiving public money, the state should simply lay out which subjects must be taught. This list should consist of English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, etc., and it could also include additional electives, such as coding, foreign language, art, music, or industrial training, among many other options.
The goal of public education in Michigan today and in the years to come should not be to mandate the details of the curricula taught in each and every school, but instead to allow all parents, no matter their income level, to choose which schools their children attend and to require every school to compete for every student who walks through its doors.
For more information about The Heartland Institute’s work, please visit our Web sites at www.heartland.org or http:/news.heartland.org, or call John Nothdurft at 312/377-4000 or reach him by email at [email protected].
 EdChoice. Empirical Research Literature on the Effects of School Choice [web page]. Last modified April 11, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/empirical-research-literature-on-the-effects-of-school-choice