Delta Township, Michigan — The Michigan State Assembly has approved two petition summaries authorizing the creation of so-called “opportunity scholarships” that would allow donors to obtain tax breaks on donations toward nonpublic education.
Related: Petition initiative aims to override Whitmer’s veto of tax credits for non-public schools
The petitions mirror Republican legislation that Governor Gretchen Whitmer opposed last month. If the petitions gather enough signatures, the policy can be adopted by the legislature without the need for the governor’s approval.
Republican supporters of the new school funding system say it will provide more flexibility and choice in education and address disparities in the educational choices available to some students.
The first petition approved Monday would change Michigan tax law to allow donors to give money to “scholarship awarding organizations,” or newly established nonprofits that will provide funding for parents and families of students who meet certain criteria.
Funding can be used for tuition or fees to attend a private school, teaching, or extracurricular activities and other educational resources.
Eligible public school students based on income can get up to $500, while students with disabilities can get up to $1,100.
The second petition allows donors to claim tax credits on their contributions to the scholarship program. Residents or businesses that make donations will be eligible for income tax credits equal to their donations. Allow MI Kids Learn to set a maximum of $500 million in claimable tax credits.
Opponents of the idea say the implementation of the voucher pattern system contravenes the state constitution, which requires Michigan to maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools.
Democrats pointed to the state’s Blaine Amendment – Michigan’s constitution prohibits the making, directly or indirectly, of any “payment, credit, waivers, deduction of tax benefits, tuition voucher, support grant, or public money loan” to “directly or indirectly support any student’s attendance at any non-public school.” “.
Whitmer vetoed four bills passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in October.
Read more: Whitmer challenges GDR scholarship bills, calls Democrats ‘coupon scheme’
Fred Woollick, a spokesman for the commission, said he did not believe the policy was against the law.
“The reason it’s constitutional is because what the Blaine Amendment says you can’t do is you can’t give people a tax credit to send their kids to private school — it doesn’t say anything about speech therapy,” Wszolek said in October.
“This does not give them a tax credit, it gives a donor who gave money to a nonprofit organization a tax credit,” he said. “The nonprofit will decide what forms of support it wants to offer the parents, but things are unrelated.”
Two petition forms have been submitted and approved for each Let MI Kids Learn proposal. One group included a box for voters to determine if they lived in a city or town and one group was presented without this box.
The committee said it had filed petitions that included the fund although it is not a current requirement just in case the courts decide that petitions without the fund are invalid.
On a separate matter, Monday voters voted along partisan lines on new petition forms submitted by Secure MI Vote and Unlock Michigan II. Democrats Canvassers Julie Matuzak and Jeannette Bradshaw voted no, citing a friendly briefing recently submitted by the board of directors.
The Michigan Court of Appeals in October struck down parts of a 2018 law requiring petition initiatives that include a fund that defines volunteers and paid distributors. Distributors will need to notify signatories by checking a box specifying their role in the petition.
The board voted to submit an amicable brief earlier this month calling on the Michigan Supreme Court to consider rulings on the petitions as potential rulings only, so that the petitions are not invalidated in the field.
“I think we’re undermining our position by agreeing to a second version of the petition,” Matuzac said.
Collectors are waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether petitions approved before the fund’s requirements will have to be added.
The Board wants to count signatures for petition forms that comply with applicable rules during deliberation or at the time of approval of petitions.
Wszoleck, who is also a spokesperson for Secure MI Vote and Unlock Michigan II, said Monday that signers should not worry because signatures to the Secure MI Vote petition already in circulation will still be counted.
“(The signatories) have nothing to worry about at this point. We don’t know what the shape is, we just want to get the shape right on any given day,” Wszoleck said. We try to stick to all the rules as best we can. We wish we didn’t have to print All models are new, they are not free.”
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