Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Vetoes Bills Helping Low-Income Families Leave Failing Public Schools

 Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) vetoed Republican-sponsored school choice bills passed by both the state House and Senate that would have helped low-income families obtain scholarships they could use to leave failing neighborhood public schools.

In her veto letter Friday, Whitmer called the legislation a “catastrophic failure,” according to a report at

Simply put, our schools cannot provide the high-quality education our kids deserve if we turn private schools into tax shelters for the wealthy. The movement to privatize education in this state has been a catastrophic failure, causing Michigan students to fall behind the rest of the nation.

The legislation would have allowed Michigan students to apply for scholarships based on family income, or for a disability, or if they were in foster care.

In ripping the legislation, Whitmer and her administration attempted to leverage perceived anti-Trump sentiment toward former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her family, who reside in Michigan, and have supported the bills that would have allowed individuals and businesses to obtain tax credits when they contribute to a scholarship program to help families choose alternative education settings.

Whitmer and Democrats, who are backed by the teachers’ unions, incorrectly framed the tax credit scholarships as “vouchers,” the latter of which could involve a direct transfer of public school funds to nonpublic and religious schools.

Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Paula Herbart referred to the tax credit scholarship measures as “voucher schemes” that would be “funneling money to private schools,” and doing “nothing to provide equal opportunity for Michigan students.”

“If donors like Betsy DeVos want to fight again over the same tired, rejected ideas that pit students, families and communities against each other, MEA and our members will fight back once more,” the teachers’ union president added.

Democrat lawmakers in the Michigan legislature echoed those sentiments.

“So, we have private donors getting tax benefits from taxpayer dollars to pay for kids to attend private or religious schools,” State Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D) said in objecting to the legislation.

“You know …  that the Michigan Constitution is crystal clear on the subject of using public money for private or religious education,” she added, pointing to Michigan’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funds from being used for nonpublic schools.

School choice advocate and education researcher Corey A. DeAngelis, however, posted to Twitter that Michigan voters can “help override Governor Whitmer’s vetoes by signing a petition”:

In October, following the approval of the bills by the Michigan House and Senate, Whitmer’s office referred to the legislation as a “non-starter,” claiming the bills violate the Michigan constitution.

“This legislation undermines that constitutional guarantee, permitting the diversion of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to private institutions,” Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said. “Michiganders are tired of the attempts to force a Betsy DeVos-style voucher program that drain resources from our public schools.”

But, State Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R) said the measure would not violate the state’s Blaine Amendment because the structure of the tax credit scholarship program would have the funds go into scholarships for students, instead of directly to private schools.

Posthumus, who co-sponsored the House bill with State Rep. Phil Green (R), also observed the legislation’s income eligibility requirements would enable low-income families to have the opportunity to choose the education setting best for their children, similar to wealthier families.

“For too long here in Michigan, we’ve allowed zip codes and parents’ wealth to determine the educational opportunities for kids,” he said. “This legislation is an opportunity to fix that.”

States have made school choice a legislative priority over the past year, which is not surprising given its popularity among American parents and families.

“It is difficult to understate just how huge a year school choice has had in state legislatures across the nation,” Mike McShane, director of national research at EdChoice, noted at Forbes in July.

A RealClear Opinion Research Poll published in April found 71 percent of voters support school choice, an outcome the American Federation for Children (AFC) says represents “the highest level of support ever recorded from major AFC national polling with a sample size above 800 voters.”

When race and ethnicity were considered as factors, voters of all cultural backgrounds overwhelmingly supported school choice.

According to the poll, 73 percent of white Americans back school choice, as do 66 percent of black Americans, 68 percent of Hispanics, and 66 percent of Asians.

“The need for education freedom is at an all-time high and it’s reaffirming to see many state policymakers stepping up and supporting school choice across the country,” said John Schilling, AFC president.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Vetoes Bills Helping Low-Income Families Leave Failing Public Schools Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Vetoes Bills Helping Low-Income Families Leave Failing Public Schools Reviewed by Your Destination on November 10, 2021 Rating: 5

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