The Michigan House last week passed legislation requiring every state public school to set aside time for the Pledge of Allegiance, and every classroom to display an American flag, the Associated Press reports.
Michigan was previously one of seven states that did not have a law requiring the pledge’s recitation every day. The flag bill already passed the state Senate and now goes on to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for his signing, while the pledge legislation will go to the Senate for consideration.
While Republican state Sen. Roger Kahn, who introduced the bill, says starting the school day with the pledge is an important expression of love for the country, some officials find the legislation unnecessary, pointing out that most schools already set aside time for the pledge.
"With all of the issues facing us in our society, is this the most important thing we've got to deal with? I'm all for patriotism, but I guess my question is, 'Why are we spending time on this kind of stuff?'" Bay City Public Schools Superintendent Doug Newcombe told the AP.
Democratic state Rep. Vicki Barnett told WLNS-TV that while she supports the flag and the pledge, she does not support “trivializing our nation's cherished symbols for political gain in an election year,” adding that lawmakers did not vote to buy flags for schools that cannot afford them.
Barnett’s concerns echo those of other school officials who maintain the legislation could prove an undue burden on cash-strapped districts.
"The problem is, we're all being told, put more dollars in the classroom, cut back on administrators, do all these things. ... Who is supposed to implement this?" Newcombe said. "I don't think it's going to be a break-us cost, but could it run in the thousands? Sure. It's a cost I can't spend on something else that maybe I really do need."
Deborah Veiht, superintendent of the Marquette Area Public Schools, also told the AP she would prefer to see the money go toward other student needs, such as technology, furniture and crayons.
Bill sponsor and Republican state Rep. Kevin Cotter says he doesn’t consider cost a “legitimate argument,” and has offered to take part in an effort to collect donations for poor districts to purchase flags.
WLNS-TV reports that students who do not wish to say “one nation under God” for religious reasons will not be required to participate.
Last month, the Nebraska Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a rule change that will make it mandatory for the state’s public schools to set aside time each day for the pledge. Like in Michigan, Nebraska students will not be forced to recite the pledge under the new rule, provided they respect peers who do participate.
The rule change comes after Nebraska lawmakers failed to advance a law that would require recitation of the pledge.