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Millage money for charter schools legislation passes in state House

Michigan Capitol building in Lansing on a summer day.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Capitol building in Lansing.

The state House narrowly passed a charter school bill Thursday. It would let charter schools qualify for countywide tax millage dollars. That’s money that previously has gone to traditional public schools. The Senate bill has been waiting for a full House vote since last year.

Representative Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, chairs the House Education Reform committee. He said all students should be treated equally.

“This is a basic fairness issue,” he said. “I mean if we’re concerned about all kids and treating them fairly and equitably across the board, then what’s good for traditional schools is good for charter schools.”

But a few Republicans sided with Democrats on this controversial issue. Opponents say it’ll take away from already cash-strapped traditional public schools – in favor of for-profit institutions.

Representative Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown, voted against the bill. He said charter school operators take money off the top to keep as profit.

“So in effect, SB 574 would take away millions of dollars meant for our public schools and put it right in the pockets of companies trying to profit off our kids’ education,” he said.

But Kelly wasn’t having it. He said the opposition is really to charter schools in general – and he’s sick of the argument.

“This is the law,” Kelly said. “These have been around, they’re legitimate, it’s working for thousands of Michigan students and families. Stop. Stop already.”

The bill needs a final technical vote in the Senate. Then it’s on its way to the governor’s desk. 

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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