Betsy DeVos Supports Michigan School Choice Vote Campaign

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos backed a Michigan ballot campaign on Wednesday to allow students to attend private schools and pay other education costs with donation accounts that would qualify for tax deductions.

Critics liken the proposed scholarship funds to vouchers and say they would be unconstitutional because of the state’s ban on public aid to private schools.

DeVos, a longtime school choice advocate whose family donated $400,000 to the Let MI Kids Learn voting committee, encouraged residents to support the effort. She claimed it would stand up to legal challenges because the contributions — for which corporate and individual donors would get an equivalent income tax credit — would go to the scholarship-giving organizations and “never become charity money.” the state”.

“Parents don’t have to send their kids to schools that don’t care what mom and dad think. By signing these petitions, we can help every child have equal access to a world-class education – whether public, private, charter, home-based, pod-based, dual-enrollment, online, earn-and-learn, tutor, after school, extracurricular, or any combination of the above,” DeVos, the education secretary in the administration of President Donald Trump, said at a virtual event to kick off the collection of petitions by volunteers. Paid circulators have been in the field since December.

The group needs about 340,000 valid voter signatures to send each of the two initiatives to the Republican-led Legislature. Lawmakers could then enact the measures despite Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto of identical bills in November.

DeVos helped lead a 2000 ballot measure — resoundingly rejected by voters — that would have required underperforming school districts to offer students vouchers to use at private schools.

Whitmer, who is up for re-election, said the latest proposal would cut state revenue by up to $500 million in the first year and make private schools “tax havens for the wealthy.” Noting that a high percentage of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit entities and citing low reading scores, she called the education privatization movement a “catastrophic failure.”

“This is an anti-public education effort that will take funds away from schools during a teacher shortage and will be used to provide tax breaks to DeVos and his allies,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan.

DeVos said it was “ridiculous” to suggest the plan would benefit the wealthy.

“This is a mechanism for individuals to redirect a portion of their tax bill, whether individual or corporate, to directly help students who need it most,” she said. .

Let MI Kids Learn had taken in $1.7 million as of December 31, including $800,000 from a Washington, DC-based group called Get Families Back to Work — which shares an address with the Republican Governors Association — and $475,000 dollars from the Conservative State Government Leadership Foundation.

Under the proposal, K-12 students would be eligible for scholarships if their household income does not exceed twice the threshold to receive a free or reduced price lunch – $98,050 for a family of four now – or if they have a disability or are in foster care. Nearly one million, or two-thirds, of schoolchildren could benefit from it.

Students attending private schools could get up to 90% of the state’s per-student minimum base funding, which equates to $7,830 this year. Households with incomes between 100% and 200% of the free and reduced meals program threshold would receive less on a sliding scale.

Children enrolled in public schools could receive a maximum of $500 per year, or $1,100 if they have a disability.

Funds could pay for school-related expenses: tuition, tuition, tutoring, computers, software, teaching materials, summer courses, after-school programs, transportation costs, sports fees, educational therapies, and school uniforms .

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