The Republican-led legislature on Tuesday passed bills that would allow private donors and businesses to get tax breaks to pay for children to attend private and religious schools.
Fast-track legislation, introduced less than a week ago, would allow individuals and businesses to claim a 100% credit on their income taxes for donations to nonprofits, which would send money on the accounts of eligible students. The GOPThe controlled Senate passed the bills earlier on Tuesday, followed by the House.
The use of public funds for private schools is prohibited by the state constitution.
“The courts have reaffirmed this language [a 1970 voter-approved constitutional amendment] Again and again. Our public school students have won every time. -Representing. Darrin Camilleri, (D-Trenton)
Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) says this is another attempt by Republicans to privatize Michigan schools.
“These bills are voucher schemes that were shamelessly introduced during a pandemic that would send Michigan taxpayer money primarily to private and religious schools while providing generous tax breaks to wealthy donors. “
Polehanki says the plan would cost the state a lot of revenue.
“My colleagues opposite who are sponsoring these bills have not been able to say what they would cut in the budget to offset a billion dollar loss in revenue.
A Senate tax analysis found that if the maximum value of tax credits increased each year, it would cost the state $ 1 billion by year five. It is not clear that even if enacted, the voucher program would increase at this rate.
Republicans say the bills would increase educational opportunities for disadvantaged children and give parents additional choices.
Senator Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) says the measure is about fairness.
“These opportunity scholarships will allow us to extend the services we already offer to students to hopefully better prepare them for the challenges and hopefully the potential opportunities they will have as they grow. here in Michigan.
Gustavo Portella, director of communications for the Michigan Republic Party, said the legislation would help students who suffered a learning loss last year following pandemic shutdowns last year.
“Michigan students suffered under Gretchen Whitmer’s disconnected regime when it closed schools affecting students from all walks of life, ”says Portela. “We support this legislation because it gives students the opportunity to catch up with the learning gap created by Gretchen Whitmer and gives parents the flexibility and control to meet their child’s unique challenges, especially after a difficult year. ”
State has strictest ban on public aid to private schools
Kindergarten to Grade 12 students would be eligible if their family income does not exceed double the threshold to receive a free or reduced price lunch – $ 98,050 for a family of four – if they have a disability or are with a host family.
Students attending private schools could receive up to $ 7,830 this year, or 90% of the state’s minimum base per student funding. Those in households with incomes between 100% and 200% of the free and reduced meal program threshold would receive less on a sliding scale.
Children enrolled in public schools could get a maximum of $ 500, or $ 1,100 if they are disabled.
The scholarships could cover school-related expenses: tuition fees, tuition fees, private lessons, computers, software, educational materials, summer courses, transportation costs, sports fees, educational therapies and school uniforms. State tax revenues would be cut by $ 500 million in the first year, and public schools would see their funding drop based on the number of children who go to private school because of the scholarships.
The Michigan Constitution states that “no money or public property” can be used to “aid or maintain” private schools. It is the country’s toughest constitutional ban on providing state aid to non-state schools.
Abby Mitch, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, said tax credits are “not public funds.” It is apparently private funds that are reallocated by the state to parents. ”
But critics, including Michigan’s largest teachers’ union, said the proposed program was clearly illegal under a 1970 constitutional amendment approved by voters.
“The courts have reaffirmed this language time and time again. Our public school students have won every time, ”said Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton).
The bills were approved 20-16 and 55-48 in the Senate and the House. Final votes can only take place next week.
The legislation – if passed in the House – would likely be opposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.