GOP-backed bill packages would create scholarships for tuition fees

The Michigan House and Senate have both passed their own version of a bill that would create “student scholarships.”

The bills would allow eligible families to use tax credit-funded scholarships to pay for education-related expenses, such as private school tuition or standardized testing fees.

State Senator Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) defends the package against critics who say it would take funds from public schools.

“Instead, every dollar that went into these scholarship agencies would go directly into a child’s education. So we will further strengthen investment in education, ”Barrett said.

Critics, however, call the bills a violation of the state’s constitution.

“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,” Senator Dayna Polehanki said. (D-Livonia).

The Michigan state constitution prohibits using public money to pay for education in private schools.

Supporters like State Representative Bryan Posthumus (R-Kent County) say the package was designed with this in mind.

“The way we set that up is that we have organizations that give scholarships that receive private dollars, private donations, private contributions, and then the organization that gives scholarships then creates scholarships and distributes scholarships to the scholarships. families, ”Posthumus said.

In return for these contributions, however, donors would receive tax credits.

The tax analysis of both packages suggests that they could have a drastic impact on General State Fund revenues in their early years if they become law.

Senator Barrett says the large amount of unspent state revenue remaining after the budgeting process means Michigan can afford to implement the program.

“We are not in a position in the state today where we face a financial calamity where we cannot somehow allow individuals and private taxpayers to invest in educational opportunities for the children of our country. State, ”Barrett said.

Democrats decry the bills as an affront to public education. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is almost sure to veto packages if they reach his office.

“There’s really no work around it. Some officials have tried to argue otherwise, but the courts have repeatedly stated that our constitution is very clear. We do not support the vouchers. We don’t support money for private and religious schools, ”said state representative Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton).

Republicans, however, are selling it as a way to give parents more options. During committee hearings on the bills on Tuesday morning before heading to their respected chambers for a vote, speakers testified to their struggles to find an in-person schooling option during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Are we giving parents more choices to educate their children and cutting back on government?” It sounds like a win-win to me, ”Posthumus said.

State Representative Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac) headed the Pontiac School District School Board and the Michigan Association of School Boards. She challenges the premise that students receive a better education outside of public schools.

“When kids, especially from our school systems, from struggling school systems, get into… these private schools, they’re not going to get the same kind of attention they need,” Carter said.

The bills of the Senate were adopted by this chamber by 20 to 16 votes. House counterparts passed their house by a 55-48 margin

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