House Considering Education Voucher Plan

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, May 4, 2016

Last week, the House Education Committee passed House Joint Resolution B, sponsored by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township), which would amend the Michigan Constitution to allow for special education vouchers.

HJR B would require the Legislature to provide financial support for children with special needs to attend the school of their choice, including a nonpublic school, as long as the cost of that financial support does not exceed the amount that would be used for that child at a public school.

MASB opposes the resolution and is extremely disappointed by the actions of the House Education Committee. Michigan has high-quality special education programs that often exceed federal requirements. Our public schools do an exceptional job of serving our special education students, while private schools often lack the accountability and resources to meet a student’s individual need. To allow public money to be used in a private school that may not have the same specialized teachers and resources is an abuse of public resources and a disservice to the children of Michigan.

Michigan’s special education students receive funding from the federal government, local community millages and the state. Questions were raised as to which dollars would follow the student and how much of that would be local or federal money, but there were no answers.

This raises concerns that if a special education student only takes the per-pupil allotment with them, that a private school would only take those students with the least costly educational needs. Public schools currently spend from their general fund in addition to the special education funds to make sure students receive the proper treatment and education.

Finally, what accountability system would private schools have? Many of the state requirements that pertain to public schools do not have to be followed by private schools. Taxpayers want to know that the money they are contributing is being used for the right purposes; under this resolution there is no assurance that private schools would spend tax dollars appropriately.

This resolution appears to be the latest attempt at instituting education vouchers in Michigan. Passage of HJR-B would weaken Michigan's Constitution opening the door for vouchers statewide.

HJR B is now before the full House for its consideration. It will require a two-thirds’ vote in both the House and Senate, and then would go before the voters at the next general election. Contact your State Representative and urge them to oppose vouchers.

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