LANSING, MI — A proposed ballot initiative to allow Michiganders to fund private education programs with tax credits submitted more than half a million signatures on Wednesday, hoping to send it to the Republican-controlled legislature.
By submitting signatures after the deadline to qualify for the November ballot, Let MI Kids Learn leaders can encourage lawmakers to accept it, because passing it that way avoids Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto pen. .
“The change is coming to provide more educational choices,” spokeswoman Amy Hawkins said.
Let MI Kids Learn would allow people to claim tax credits and pool that money for private programs for K-12 students. In two petitions, he establishes the law and sets a maximum annual amount.
These “scholarships,” Hawkins said, would give public school students up to $500 and students with disabilities up to $1,100 for “additional resources” on top of their normal education.
“These scholarships can be used for tutoring, transportation, tuition, mental health support, special needs therapy, skilled trades training, and the list goes on and on,” said she declared.
Students in private schools could get 90% of the annual amount of public school per-student funding: currently $8,700.
The proposal sets a maximum of $500 million in total tax credits per year and requires this annual limit to increase by 20% if at least 90% of the previous year’s credits have been claimed.
Hawkins said 520,598 signatures were submitted for a petition on Wednesday, well above the 340,047 needed. The signatures went through a multi-level quality control process, she added, to identify invalid signatures before official verification by the Elections Office. The Board of State Solicitors must then approve before the initiative is forwarded to the Legislature.
Signatures for the other petition will arrive soon, Hawkins said, as leaders want the legislature to deal with it this year.
State Senator Lana Theis, R-Brighton, said the program will help students overcome lost learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, “and parents are the ones with the power to help their children.” .
Critics, however, say the initiative is a voucher program that will sap money from public education and let tax credits fund private school tuition.
“This voucher proposal will only make matters worse by taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from our local schools every year,” said Casandra Ulbrich, spokesperson for the opposition group For MI Kids, For Our Schools, “ and providing funding for private, for-profit schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers.
His group cites a study that argues that public K-12 schools will lose state funding for every student who transfers to a private school and that students from wealthier families are likely to benefit more than those who don’t. are low-income or middle-class.
The initiative has the backing of former US Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, the politically powerful West Michigan conservative, as well as former Republican Vice President Mike Pence.
Let MI Kids Learn is the sixth law or constitutional amendment proposed by citizens to submit signatures this year. A payday loan reform initiative made the June 1 ballot deadline but failed signature inspection, and a voter ID proposal and a minimum wage hike proposal await their fate.
Two constitutional amendments – one to codify the right to abortion and the other to increase access to the vote – are expected to know by the end of August whether they will make the November ballot.
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