Michigan parents and residents can get involved with local education beyond electing school board members. Photo via Shutterstock
Michigan parents and residents can get involved with local education beyond electing school board members.

Use the momentum from election 2020 to ensure your schools are performing the way you want, ‘Ganders.

MICHIGAN—The coronavirus pandemic showed opportunities for improvement across Michigan in everything from water treatment to housing, to health care, to child care.

The end of the year is the perfect time to use the momentum from the 2020 election to improve the state for more Michiganders. And Michigan’s schools, students, and learning gaps have been taking center stage all year long. When schools were forced to abruptly close in March due to the pandemic, it immediately cast a spotlight on shortcomings in state and local education systems, as each scrambled to address the needs of its students.

President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly considering American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten to replace Michigan native Betsy DeVos as US Education Secretary. But the effectiveness of whoever gets the nation’s top education role will in part depend on parents and residents working with local school districts.

Here are ways for you to get involved with local education in Michigan, and most don’t even involve politics:

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At Your Child’s School

There several ways to get involved at your childrens’ school, especially during the pandemic. Some schools are providing lunches for families and need help distributing them to parents.

In times that don’t require the utmost safety precautions, many elementary schools also welcome parent volunteers as classroom, playground, and lunchroom helpers.

School sports teams always need help with transportation and snacks, especially if there is a booster club—a group dedicated to fundraising so costs to families can be reduced.

When in doubt, the PTA (parent teacher association) is always a great place to lend a hand to teachers at your child’s school.

In Your School District

Each school district in Michigan is governed by a local school board comprised of members of the community who are elected by local residents. Depending on the way your Michigan school district is run, board members may be involved in the selection and hiring of district superintendents, setting district policy, approving salaries, and overall goal setting.

But community members and parents help shape the district’s vision and hold school board members accountable. 

School board meetings are open to the public and broadcast online for free during the pandemic. Check with your local district for meeting dates and information.

If there is no other satisfactory way to effect change within your district, consider running for an elected position on your local school board.

READ: A List of 13 Ways to Prepare for Michigan’s 2020 Winter

At the State Level

Beyond your local school district, the Michigan Department of Education (DOE) coordinates local education systems across the state.

The DOE is led by Superintendent Michael Rice and together with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, they set education and instruction standards, and provide resources to both teachers and parents.

Each year, the DOE publishes its strategic plans for Michigan school districts. They’re a good place to start if you’re a concerned citizen looking to keep local and state leaders accountable to Michigan’s students.

Additionally, the Michigan PTA shares similar goals with individual school parent teacher associations, but at a broader level. The group aims to collect approximately $10 in dues from each member.

School Involvement at the National Level

Much like its local and state counterparts, the National Parent Teacher Association works to increase parental involvement and participation in school activities at the local level. Because it is a larger group, they provide more access to tools and resources on how to get involved.

The National School Board Association has members from states and the US Virgin Islands. The group advocates on behalf of schools to change national law and policy.

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