Dexter Community Schools discuss the 'Let MI Kids Learn' proposal

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Dexter Community Schools (DCS) are concerned about two initiatives' potential impact on the school district's budget and in turn the classroom.

At the its Aug. 22 meeting, the DCS Board of Education began discussion on potentially putting its support behind a resolution letter stating its opposition to the “Let MI Kids Learn” and “Student Opportunity Scholarship" statutory initiatives.

This was just a discussion piece. The board did not yet vote on whether or not to support it. However, during the discussion there was talk of concerns and the harmful impact it could have.

The Sun Times News followed up after the meeting and connected by email with DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis and school board vice president Elise Bruderly.

Because the Board has yet to vote on the Board Resolution, Bruderly said she wanted to highlight the main point she made during the open meeting. She said this represents her personal view, and not those of the board as a whole.

“The Let MI Kids Learn proposal will have a significant impact on the budgets of public school systems across the state,” she said. “As a Trustee of our public school district, my role is to preserve and protect our revenue and budget. Regardless of an individual Trustee's personal views, I believe that it is important that as a Board we communicate to our Legislators that this will have negative consequences for our budget, and therefore, our educational program. Public school budgets are part of an inherently political process in the State of Michigan, and, as a Board, we need to communicate with our State Representatives and State Senators to make sure they understand when there will be an impact. This is one of those times.”

Timmis said, “The Let MI Kids Learn petition drive is a voucher system. The Michigan Constitution clearly states that public school dollars cannot be spent on private schools and Michigan voters denied a voucher proposal years ago that was brought to the voters. Sadly, the Let MI Kids Learn plan is not to ask the voters of the state whether or not to change the Michigan Constitution. Instead, it appears the plan is to exercise an abused legislative loophole that allows a fraction of registered voters to sign a petition to put a proposal on the ballot. Then, the legislature approves the proposal and makes it law. This is possible with only the Senate and the House voting and does not allow for a veto from the Governor's office.”

He also said, “If the petition drive was able to generate enough signatures, then the legislature should allow the question to go to the voters of the state and not unilaterally change the State Constitution. The petition gathered somewhere near 6 percent of the registered voters in the state. The State Constitution should not be changed by the will of 6 percent of the voters who signed a petition. That's now how our system was designed to work.”

On the Let MI Kids Learn website, it states:

“Our Legislative Initiative Petitions take the power away from the unions, away from the governor, and put it in the hands of parents.

FIRST… one petition creates a new Student Opportunity Scholarship. These scholarships could pay for educational expenses from a little bit of extra tutoring, all the way to tuition at a private school. This will give more options to more parents and more students than ever before.

SECOND… the next petition funds these scholarships by giving tax credits to individuals and companies who make contributions to the scholarship-granting organizations.”

The website also says:

“All children deserve an exceptional education.

Let’s trust parents, not bureaucrats, to make the best decisions for their kids. The pandemic took a heavy toll on Michigan students. Now’s the time to support Michigan’s students, to give parents more control, and to expand opportunities for every student."

The organizers behind Let MI Kids Learn proposal said they have submitted 500,000 signatures to put the measure before state lawmakers.

One point of contention by those opposed to the initiatives is that they say the organizers didn't intend to put their initiatives on the voting ballot, but rather wanted them to go instead before lawmakers who would pass them.

Here is the resolution, which might be voted on at the next board meeting and is now before the DCS school board:

RESOLUTION OPPOSING “LET MI KIDS LEARN” VOUCHER INITIATIVES

WHEREAS, the Michigan Constitution states, “No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, preelementary, elementary, or secondary school;” and

WHEREAS, vetoed House Bills 4504 and 4505, and vetoed Senate Bills 687 and 688 conferred an eventual $1 billion per year in unconstitutional tax credits to be used for an unconstitutional, backdoor private school voucher program; and

WHEREAS, letters vetoing those bills pointedly stated, “Redirecting public school dollars for private gain is not only ineffective, it has been roundly rejected by Michigan voters, with more than 69% voting “no” on a proposal that would have allowed the use of tuition vouchers for nonpublic schools,” and “Simply put, our schools cannot provide the high-quality education our kids deserve if we turn private schools into tax shelters for the wealthy;” and

WHEREAS, in response to the vetoes, tuition voucher advocates have launched the “Let MI Kids Learn” and “Student Opportunity Scholarship” statutory initiatives to place those bills into law; and

WHEREAS, under Michigan law, the Legislature can bypass Michigan citizens’ ability to vote on a statutory initiative that collects only 340,047 signatures from the more than 8 million registered voters.

Now, therefore, be it resolved as follows:

1. That the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education opposes the “Let MI Kids Learn” and “Student Opportunity Scholarship” statutory initiatives being solicited by the organization called “Let MI Kids Learn”; and

2. That the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education calls upon the Legislature to reject the statutory initiatives in the event they are presented to the Legislature; and

3. That the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education calls upon the Legislature, in the event they do not reject the statutory initiatives, to refrain from voting on them, to allow the citizens of Michigan to vote on the matter; and

4. That a copy of this resolution be sent to: (1) all elected members of the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan State Senate who represent the Dexter Community Schools School District, (2) the leadership of the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate, and (3) to the Michigan Association of School Boards.

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