(The Center Square) – While state Democrats are touting massive bipartisan public education spending increases during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first term, some Republicans this campaign season are emphasizing parental rights, and gender and sexuality issues related to the education of Michigan students.
Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel are running for reelection, and both candidates are in the crosshairs of Republican efforts to cast them as out of touch with parents who send their children to public schools.
At issue for Republicans are sex and gender curriculum, which prompted Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon to call for the resignation of State School Superintendent Michael Rice. Conservative group Michigan Freedom Fund on Tuesday released an online advertisement in which Nessel seemingly advocates for a “drag queen for every school.”
“Our schools belong to taxpaying parents, not radical political activists,” Dixon said. “And we are going to take them back. Too many schools have failed too many children for far too long. It’s a failure of leadership and a failure of character. There are many good teachers that just want to help kids learn. And there are also many political activists that want to use kids as a prop in their progressive assault on parents’ rights and family values. Both can be true at the same time,” she said.
“Today, I am first and foremost calling for the resignation of State Superintendent Rice. Someone who has such contempt for parents as to instruct staff to hide information from them about their struggling children is unfit to oversee our education system.”
Dixon also targeted Whitmer for what the Norton Shores candidate says is a lack of leadership on school curriculum and Title IX issues.
“Leadership is being unafraid to say that as Governor, I will protect women’s sports,” Dixon said. “We will not force young girls to compete against biological boys in the state of Michigan. Ever. Leadership is being unafraid to say that as Governor, I will protect parents’ rights.”
Dixon continued: “We will ban school personnel from talking to young kids about sex and gender behind their parents backs. Leadership is being unafraid to say that if an adult is caught showing pornographic materials to young children and talking to them about sex in school without their parents’ consent, that adult will be prosecuted just as they would currently if they did that at a bus stop.”
The MFF ad features unaltered video of a June speech Nessel delivered to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “Ah, know what’s not a problem for kids who are seeking a good education? Drag Queens, OK, let me say this: drag queens, not only are they not hurting our kids, drag queens make everything better,” Nessel said.
The AG and her defenders assert the remarks were intended to be humorous, pointing to previous examples of Nessel exhibiting a quirky sense of humor, including after she was photographed so intoxicated last fall at a Michigan State University/University of Michigan football game she had to be removed from the stadium in a wheelchair.
“This wasn’t a joke or a flippant remark. This was a premeditated rant that Nessel’s staff warned against and was a significant portion of her remarks,” MFF Executive Director Tori Sachs said in a statement. “Nessel’s unhinged diatribe shows just how out-of-touch Michigan Democrats are with families who want real solutions for their kids after Whitmer’s school shutdowns,” she added.
Sachs noted Whitmer was responsible for closing schools to in-person learning throughout the pandemic, and the subsequent drop in student math and reading skills to the lowest level in decades. Sachs also said Whitmer vetoed summer reading programs, reading scholarships, and opportunity accounts that families could have used for tutoring, transportation, and more.
“Michigan kids don’t need drunk history with Dana Nessel and her drag queens, they need real solutions to improve the record low math and reading levels that came as a result of Gretchen Whitmer’s school shutdown,” Sachs said, referring to the Comedy Central reality series in which increasingly intoxicated individuals narrate reenactments of historical events.
Sachs also referenced a tweet issued by the Michigan Democratic Party last January, which was later deleted. “Not sure where this ‘parents-should-control-what-is-taught-in-schools-because-they-are-our-kids’ is originating, but parents do have the option to send their kids to a hand-selected private school at their own expense if this is what they desire,” the post read.
“Dana Nessel is fixated on pushing a radical agenda in schools while students’ math and reading levels have fallen to an all-time low,” Sachs said. “Thirty years of minority achievement in education has been erased by Democrat school shutdowns and yet Nessel chose to focus on drag queens ten times when speaking on education at a Civil Rights event.”
Nessel’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.