Thomas Pedroni, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education was quoted in Bridge, "In Benton Harbor schools, a lesson for – and about – Gretchen Whitmer"

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Bridge, 6/21

In Benton Harbor schools, a lesson for – and about – Gretchen Whitmer

By Ron French

Angry residents pummeled Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with questions earlier this month. She answered and kept answering, staying in the church for almost four hours trying to explain why she believed it was in the best interest of Benton Harbor children to close the impoverished community’s lone high school and send those students elsewhere. The meeting between the Democratic governor and residents of this Democratic stronghold didn’t change many minds. But it did crystalize a governing style that at times risks alienating the governor’s supporters in an effort to resolve the state’s long-standing problems. Her approach ‒ announcing bold plans and then asking critics to come up with something better. How that style pans out in Benton Harbor is yet to be determined. Tom Pedroni, associate professor of education at Wayne State University, questions whether Whitmer’s actions – taking a bold stance on closure and then agreeing to negotiations – was an intended strategy. “I think she was shocked” by the negative reaction to close the high school, said Pedroni, who has been active in protesting Whitmer’s plan. “Gov. Whitmer … was trying to execute through threat a deeply disruptive plan … (and) she’s only softening her approach now because she failed to anticipate the tremendous political blowback, and potential loss of political capital that she encountered across the state,” Pedroni said. “This could be an important teachable moment for her. She needs to move beyond just trying to contain the political damage, to truly understanding and addressing the state policy mechanisms that will continue to grind away and throw into crisis predominantly black, low-income districts like Benton Harbor.”