LANSING — Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday backed a Michigan ballot campaign to allow students to attend private schools and pay other education costs with donation-funded accounts that would entitle to 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 he would resist legal challenges because the contributions — for which corporate and individual donors would get an equivalent income tax credit — would go to the organizations giving scholarships and “never become money from the community.” ‘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, that ‘it be public or private, charter, home, pod, dual enrollment, online, earn and learn, tutor, after school, extracurricular or any combination of the above,’ said DeVos, the secretary at the education under the administration of President Donald Trump, during a virtual event to kick off petition collection by volunteers.Paid circulators have been on the ground 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 — voted down 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’s “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 income between 100 and 200 percent 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 classes, after-school programs, transportation costs, sports fees, educational therapies, and school uniforms .