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Michigan has been in a debate over private school choice over the last two decades and it is heating up again this year. Experts say that backers of a voucher-like system, led by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may have at last found the means to direct public funds to private schools. Michigan voters resoundingly rejected vouchers in 2000, but politics are different today, which may be giving the option new life. The issue of school choice has been fueld by the pandemic, related school closures, and parents seeking more options as a result. Here’s where they are and how it might impact our traditional K-12 public school systems:

Current effort

  • DeVos and her allies are attempting to pass a new school choice law through an unusual wrinkle in the state’s ballot initiative process.
  • The public campaign, known as Let MI Kids Learn, would award tax credits to private donors who contribute to newly created scholarship funds; those scholarships could be accessed by families to pay for their educational expenses, including private school tuition.
  • The shift in policy would be substantial, taking Michigan from basically zero private school choice to a robust choice program very quickly.

The push for more options

  • Michigan has a huge charter school sector and enrolls about 150,000 K-12 students.
  • Many still enrolled in public school take advantage of the popular Schools of Choice initiative, which allows students to attend schools outside their own district.
  • However, Michigan disallows private schools from receiving public money, which is part of the political fight and the Republican effort.

It is clear that politics are at play in a big way in Michigan. Our testing friends will need to keep watch and prepare for the discussions that is sure to follow: parent inquiries, enrollment, assessment, and accountability, each impacting our efforts significantly.

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