Senate, House Pass Michigan Opportunity Scholarship Bills | Michigan

(The Center Square) – In what has been called a blow to Blaine’s amendments to the state constitution, members of the House and Senate on Tuesday passed a list of bills to offer scholarships to study to Michigan students.

Senate Bills 687 and 688 and House Bills 5404 and 5405 all adopted mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the legislation and Democrats in opposition. The respective education committees in each chamber moved the bills forward earlier today.

Among other provisions, the bills would establish the Michigan Student Opportunities Plan for eligible students, as well as

  • Allow organizations to apply for certification to award scholarships
  • Provide for the certification of stock exchange organizations
  • Provide scholarship accounts for students and prescribe the conditions for the use of these funds
  • Administer the scholarship program for students
  • Prescribing the powers and duties of certain government officials, agencies and departments
  • Provide appropriations for the execution of this law
  • Authorize certain tax credits and deductions

Student eligibility is determined by whether their families are eligible for a free and reduced school lunch, and those families at or below 200% of eligibility for the free and reduced lunch. Families with students with special needs would also be eligible for the scholarships.

“Put simply, today’s developments should rekindle the hopes of Michigan families who want to let their children learn, even as COVID continues to disrupt school routines,” said Ben DeGrow, Mackinac’s director of education. Center for Public Policy (MCPP), in a statement.

“Elected lawmakers have taken a stand to trust parents to lead their children’s education and take a dynamic and flexible approach that funds students, not just systems,” added DeGrow. “The scholarship plan for students deserves full support. The implementation of the program would provide more than one million Michigan students with the kind of broad access to education options that is already available in many other states.

The legislation was introduced after a group of parents, represented by the MCPP Legal Foundation, challenged the so-called Blaine Amendments in Michigan’s constitution.

Once included in no less than 37 state constitutions, Blaine’s amendments were made unconstitutional in the 2020 US Supreme Court ruling, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Although the majority Supreme Court ruling determined that states are not required to fund private schools, states that do violate the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting private schools from receiving public money solely for religious reasons. .

“If we’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it’s that parents need as many opportunities as possible to help their children get a good education,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of Michigan Association for Public School Academies. , this includes addressing the significant learning losses and trauma accumulated during the pandemic, especially when you talk about our most vulnerable students – those living in poverty and those with special needs. opportunities for these students, and the Michigan Student Opportunity Accounts plan does just that. “

According to PBCM80% of Michigan’s 270,000 non-public school students attend Catholic schools, and 98% attend some type of school with a religious affiliation.

“Governor Whitmer closed Michigan schools. Then Whitmer vetoed reading scholarships for students who fell behind as a result of these closures. It’s time for Whitmer to finally let the kids learn, ”Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs said in a statement. “Well-off families can already afford to pay for the educational needs of their students. It’s time for every family to have the same options.

Senator Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, opposed the Senate bills, comparing the scholarship accounts (ESA) established by the bill to the voucher plans rejected by Michigan voters at the ballot box in 2000 and 1974.

“I wonder why the sponsor of the bill wouldn’t just try to change Michigan’s constitution,” Polehanki said during a question and answer period at Tuesday’s Senate committee meeting. “Even though… it was offered to Michigan voters in 2000 and 1974, and the good guys failed with 68% and 74% of the vote respectively. So the good guys are not popular in Michigan.”

Eric Ventimiglia, executive director of Michigan Rising Action, supports the bills but noted his disappointment with Democrats who voted against the bill.

“It is a shame that Michigan Democrats routinely put powerful teacher unions and campaign donors before parents and students,” Ventimiglia said. “Their opposition to legislation that benefits the unique needs of students is not just playing political games, it is a dereliction of duty. “

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