MASB Denied Opportunity to Testify on Special Education Vouchers

LANSING, Mich. – Today, the House Education Committee voted along party lines to move House Joint Resolution B to the full House of Representatives. The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township), would amend the Michigan Constitution to allow for special education vouchers. The vote came after Committee Chair Amanda Price (R-Park Township), refused to allow Michigan Association of School Boards Executive Director Don Wotruba the opportunity to testify in opposition citing “time constraints,” and then adjourned committee 15 minutes early. Mr. Wotruba was the only person requesting to testify.

“Voters have spoken on this issue before and the message is clear: taxpayer dollars should not be used to support private schools,” said Wotruba. “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.”

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. The resolution would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, and then would go before the voters at the next general election.

Wotruba added, “We are extremely disappointed by the actions of the committee this morning. Not only are we vehemently opposed to any voucher-like system, but not allowing the voice of school boards from across the state to be heard on this constitutional issue shows a lack of respect for locally elected officials.”