Michigan legislature passes law allowing private sector to directly fund students

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Democrats argue legislation to create voucher system is an alternative solution

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Michigan’s Republican-controlled House and Senate passed a bill they call the Student Opportunity Scholarship, attracting fierce resistance from Democrats, who claim the bill is another attempt at the voucher system.

“In a voucher system… the money is given to the Treasury Department, then the Treasury Department pays the schools through the vouchers,” Michigan State Rep. Phil Green, a Republican lawmaker who introduced the legislation, told Granthshala News. “That’s different… no money is given to the treasury, the money goes directly to the student granting organization, and from there, the scholarship is for approved use within education.”

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The bill, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to veto, creates tax credits and deductions for businesses and individuals who donate to scholarship funds, which will be used to give grants to students to use the money for approved educational expenses.

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Reports say Whitmer’s campaign may have to refund or donate millions

Some approved uses for the grant include tuition services, transportation assistance, and assistance with the costs associated with attending private schools.

but, Democrats argued The law was an attempted solution to create a voucher system, something he said violated the Michigan Constitution’s ban on using public money on private education.

Democrats have also argued that the bill would result in hundreds of millions less in tax revenue for the state, citing legislative estimates that the bill’s effect would result in less money for the state’s General Fund.

According to an analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency, “the bill would reduce state revenue by $500 million in the first year it was in effect, with the potential for a 20% per year increase in revenue loss in subsequent years.” .

But GOP State Representative Jack O’Malley, who co-sponsored the legislation, argued that the bill was a way for the state to invest in the state’s children using private money, something he said would prompt Democrats to back down. should be able to.

“It’s a new way, a different way of investing in our kids,” O’Malley told Granthshala News.

“All my life, the only thing I’ve ever heard from Democrats is, ‘We have to do this, this is for the kids,’” O’Malley continued. “So, what’s the problem here? We’re trying to find a way to help the kids, and I think that’s a very targeted way.”

Green also raised concerns that the law would take money away from education. “We will actually put an additional $500 million into education,” he argued.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaking in Lansing in August 2020.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already indicated her intention to veto the law, saying it would turn “hundreds of millions” into “private institutions.”

“This legislation is a nonstarter,” a spokesman for the governor, a Democrat, said Monday.

“The Michigan Constitution establishes a system of school funding designed to ensure the quality of free public education in Michigan. This law undermines that constitutional guarantee, allowing private institutions to divert hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually. Michiganers are tired of trying to implement a Betsy DeVos-style voucher program that drains resources from our public schools,” the spokesperson continued.

But, O’Malley said he believes opposition to Democrats boils down to politics.

“I would argue that their protest is a political maneuver because maybe teacher unions don’t like it,” O’Malley said. “I think it matters a lot because it gives the parents something to say in the discussion.

“They use this private money—not public money, private money—to help them and their children,” O’Malley continued. “Why would I be against it?”


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