In recent years, school boards across the country have been battlegrounds for prominent debates over classroom content, teaching styles, and COVID-19 protocols. At a series of contentious school board meetings in Dearborn in 2022, progressive activists faced off against devout Muslim parents trying to remove sexually explicit books from the school’s libraries. Yet even though those debates were happening across the country, they always came down to the local issue: the classroom.
But since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel, the Ann Arbor education system has tried to expand its authority. On January 17, the Ann Arbor Board of Education decided to throw its immense weight into the field of foreign policy by passing a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Unless I am woefully underinformed, I do not believe the Ann Arbor Public Schools budget includes funding for a state department or a professional military, nor does it possess embassies, consulates, or diplomatic recognition from any independent state.
As it happens, the board was only following the Ann Arbor City Council, which had passed its own ceasefire resolution a week earlier. I am not ignorant of the fact that Ann Arbor considers itself a progressive hub of enlightenment and ideological conformity. Nevertheless, I am disheartened that it has gone this far. Our local government has decided that its mandate is not to provide services but to wage ideological wars.
As a student at this university, I have grown accustomed to the student government throwing itself into foreign policy situations, declaring support for a boycott on some companies doing business with Israel (which it had no power to enforce or regulate). And in November, I watched the whole campus prepare to vote on a resolution finding Israel guilty of genocide against Palestinians.
But I am appalled to see this fervor of self-importance infecting the local government. It is not that board members think their resolution will remake geopolitics. Surely, they do not expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open up the Ann Arbor News over his morning coffee and exclaim, “Holy smokes, the Ann Arbor School Board of Education just called for a ceasefire. I guess we should throw in the towel and sign a treaty.”
Rather, Ann Arbor’s elected leaders are knowingly inflaming tensions by taking a stand on an issue they cannot affect for the satisfaction of being ideologically correct. And in doing so, they insult Ann Arbor residents who disagree and want local government to stick to local governance. Now, it is imperative for Ann Arbor officials to focus on reuniting this divided community. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) has taken this approach with Muslim and Jewish communities in her district.
And more important, the Ann Arbor Board of Education should go back to actually running the Ann Arbor Public Schools.