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Ballot initiative seeks to create "student opportunity scholarships"

Children in the hallway of a school
Adobe Stock

A petition effort is getting underway to create so-called “Student Opportunity Scholarships” that could pay for costs like private school tuition.

It would mirror bills the Legislature passed that are almost certain to receive a veto.

Fred Wszolek is the spokesman for the group behind the effort, “Let MI Kids Learn.” He said the scholarships would give parents more options.

“It might mean speech therapy or physical therapy. A lot of those services were provided through the school system and now they’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Wszolek said.

The goal is to gather enough signatures on the ballot initiative that the Republican-dominated Legislature can pass it into law without the governor’s signature. Wszolek said that’s the best way to get big priorities done.

“But now we know that the support is there in the Legislature. It passed both houses on a clear majority vote so now we’ll go collect the signatures. We can have this become law without the cooperation of the governor,” Wszolek said.

Critics say the measure violates the state Constitution’s ban on funding private school education with public school money. That’s because it would rely upon tax incentive-driven contributions.

“It is a way to make an end run by monied interests who can use their money to buy signatures to take out the fact that Michiganders elected a Democratic governor,” House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski said, noting her party’s opposition to the effort.

Organizers say they hope to begin circulating petitions around December 1.

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