The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a statement announcing that the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation (Dow Foundation) has given them one million dollars for “supporting research to help public schools become more responsive, measurable and efficient.” Grace A. Dow, wife of Dow Chemical Founder Herbert H. Dow, established the Dow Foundation in 1936. Grace was a teacher until the time of her marriage according to the foundation website. Dow Foundation grants are given “for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes.” The Dow Foundation supports many worthy causes and has given out over 531 million dollars since 1936.
While it is great that the Dow Foundation is donating a million dollars for educational research, it is troubling that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is the organization conducting the research. The Mackinac Center lacks the necessary credentials to be conducting bonafide educational research. The Mackinac Center’s Director of Education Policy is Audrey Spalding. Spalding is a journalism and economics major who previously worked as a reporter. Spalding works under Research Director Michael Van Beek. Van Beek holds two degrees in history. It’s not just that the Mackinac Center lacks trained personnel to conduct educational research, it is that they also support initiatives that would be damaging to public schools. For instance, the Mackinac Center supports the use of tax payer money for vouchers for private schools according to Van Beek. However, 69% of Michiganders opposed vouchers when given a chance to vote on them in the year 2000. Additionally, the Mackinac Center oppose government collective bargaining, a right most public school teachers hold dear.
Educational research is a noble cause for the Dow Foundation to support. However, supporting the Mackinac Center is not supporting education, it is supporting an organization with an anti-government political agenda. There are many non-political organizations that would put the Dow Foundation grant to better use. The American Education Research Association (AERA) might be a good candidate. If you too believe that the Mackinac Center’s agenda for public schools is harmful, join me in signing the petition asking the Dow Foundation to rescind their grant to the Mackinac Center and instead give it to a more qualified and more deserving institution.