February 15, 2001 Flint, Michigan

[Editors Note:The Rouge Forum in no uncertain terms disagrees with the comments of Jim Sandy.] 

On February 15, 2001, the Flint Area Public Affairs Forum sponsored a public debate to address the question, “Are MEAP assessments helping to improve student learning and school accountability?” Mark Leyda, Executive Director of the Michigan Merit Award, and Jim Sandy, Executive Director of the Michigan Business Leaders for Education Excellence, represented views supportive of the MEAP. Dr. Michael Peterson, Professor in the College of Education at Wayne State University and Co-Director of the Whole Schooling Consortium, and Greg Queen, high school social studies teacher in the Fitzgerald Public Schools spoke against the MEAP. 

As the debate ended, lively conversation ensued among various groups of participants. In one of these, some ten individuals clustered around Mr. Jim Sandy. The group soon began to discuss the many challenges of schools who serve low income children. The participants were particularly interested in Mr. Sandy’s views on this subject. 

“When teachers teach well,” said Mr. Sandy, “students will pass the MEAP no matter what problems they have in their lives outside of school.” Some talked with Mr. Sandy about schools that “don’t even have libraries.”“Such schools don’t use the money well they have now,” said Mr. Sandy referencing the billion dollars of bond money passed by Detroit voters that has yet to be used. One participant said to Mr. Sandy, “Yet the response of the state was to oust the elected school board, install a board with no connections to Detroit which has done little.” 

Mr. Sandy responded by talking about Benton Harbor. “I can tell you about Benton Harbor,” he said. “The schools there are terrible and the reason they are terrible is that people are not outraged at what is happening. The reason they are not outraged is that most of them are third generation welfare mothers who don’t want to work and teach their kids that they don’t need to.” 

Shocked, one participant said to Mr. Sandy, “I don’t want to be disrespectful to you, but those words are some of the most disrespectful words to these people I have ever heard. What it says to me is that you don’t know any of these women.” Mr. Sandy was visibly angered and started to stalk off saying, “I’m not listening to this.” However, he turned and said strongly, “The fact is I do know these people. My wife is from this area. I have been in these schools. These kids come up to me and tell me they have no future and so why should they study.” 

“What is their future?” Mr. Sandy said another participant. “What jobs are available for them? What might they see as a future?” Pausing momentarily Mr. Sandy said, “You are telling me that a Black kid from Benton Harbor with a College degree can’t get a job,” The participant said, “Maybe one, Mr. Sandy. But how many others will be hired by the companies your organization represents?” Mr. Sandy stared and said nothing. 

Later, out in the hall people were aghast at the blatant racist statements. “So this is what business leadership in Michigan really thinks of our most challenged schools and the children in them?” Indeed.


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