Education News

MI governor candidate files suit to take public funds to give them to private schools

by Félix Pérez

It’s long been well established that there’s little if any separation between Michigan gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette and his benefactor, native Michigander Betsy DeVos, when it comes to diverting public funds to private and religious schools. So when Schuette, the state’s attorney general, announced last month that he would appeal a judicial ruling that invalidated two state laws that reimburse private schools for the cost of state health and safety requirements, it came as no surprise.

A Court of Claims judge last month struck as unconstitutional two budget laws, saying $5 million in spending violates a ban on aid to non-public schools. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the laws, which include the Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards and Michigan Parents for Schools, sued the state in March 2017, arguing that the laws served as a “gateway” to school vouchers. The ruling invalidated state reimbursements to private schools for the cost of fire drills, inspections and other state requirements.

“The public has overwhelmingly rejected the use of public dollars for private schools,” said Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, at the time the suit was filed. Wigent was referencing a 2000 ballot proposal that would have created a statewide private school voucher program. Nearly 70 percent of voters rejected the ballot measure, which was widely promoted by DeVos.

The reimbursements are a “backdoor voucher and will allow for other, more questionable use of public funds in the future,” Wigent said.

The Michigan Constitution bans any direct or indirect “payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies” to non-public schools.

Schuette’s likely opponent for governor, Gretchen Whitmer, the daughter and granddaughter of educators, fought efforts to divert money from the School Aid Fund. As Democratic leader in the state Senate, she voted against a law overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court that took 3 percent out of educators’ paychecks — for a total of $550 million — to fund retiree health care. The law was challenged in court by the Michigan Education Association.

Schuette defended the educator paycheck-takings law in court for six years. Now that he is running for governor, he claims to have supported educators having their money returned.

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Schuette has benefitted from the generosity of DeVos and her family’s organizations, to the tune of nearly $123,000 since 2010, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Schuette, not surprisingly, is one of DeVos’s staunchest defenders. After a 60 Minutes interview in March in which DeVos displayed a stunning lack of knowledge about public education, Schuette tweeted, “Betsy DeVos is a smart and gifted leader in education. . . Great Secy (sic) of Education.”

If Schuette is a fan of DeVos, Whitmer is anything but. “Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Republicans in Lansing have consistently sided with Betsy DeVos to push an education agenda that includes slashing school funding, expanding unaccountable for-profit managed charter schools, over-emphasizing standardized tests, attacking hard-working educators and adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to education.” In her recently released education plan, Whitmer laid out a blueprint that counters DeVos’s agenda and prioritizes students and educators.

Like DeVos, Schuette is a strong supporter of charter schools and school vouchers. According to VoteSmart, an independent voter website, Schuette supports providing “parents with state-funded vouchers to send their children to any participating school (public, private, religious).”

The Michigan primary is August 7. Whitmer and Schuette are expected to win the nod for their respective parties and face off in November.

21 responses to “MI governor candidate files suit to take public funds to give them to private schools

  1. This rightwing corporatist has the gall to say hes on the side of the teachers getting their money back when he was totally against it. Typical trump type, just like blatantly and plan on people being ignorant.

  2. The Republican Party is now the most dangerous group in the world; more dangerous than ISIL, North Korea or Russia. Their plans are to enable personal and corporate profits over the current and future well-being of not only Americans, but the world. The doomsday clock is two-minutes to midnight (first time since 1953) because of them. Don’t let Trump’s mischief distract you while the Republican party rewrites the rules. Time to vote for the progressives who will help bring back justice for the people!

  3. Today’s public schools are failing on education, ethics and morality. Some say two of those three aren’t ment for public schools to administer, yet this who gender identity nonsense is supported, is that the role of public school, to promote mental illness (DSM, gender dysphoria)?
    So all those Catholic schools are more than welcome to take my property tax money. I’d rather see it used to promote a solution to this scest pool.

    1. * “meant” not “ment”
      ** “whole” not “who”

      Yeah – go ahead and slam public education some more……

      1. scest pool? Did he mean cesspool? Love it when the uneducated think they have all of the answers about what should happen in education.

        1. Uneducated? Does it mean that my tax dollars are no longer mine? Talk about uneducated. Once those MANDATORY taxes leave my bank, I lose control of them? Is that democracy? Now that is an uneducated idea…I no longer have ANY control over my forced participation in a system that squanders my dollars on programs that I do not want. How do you spell totalitarianism? How do you spell slavery? How do you spell dictatorial? When I see a system that is antiquated and does not teach the truth, I am powerless to make any responsible decision to choose? How is that intelligent and responsible? You sir are uneducated

      2. TrekJeff, The public school system have their issues, but if you think DeVos and Schutte are there to make things better for the majority, you are wrong. DeVos has an agenda…And, the agenda is “for profit schools”. Guess who it is profiting, or benefiting? –I can assure, it is not our children that are benefiting.

        *Also, it is spelled cesspool.
        I am not aware of a scest pool, although the government clearly has a form of nepotism, which is kind of a form of financial incest. That is my idea of your comment of a “scest pool”….And, they are surely swimming in it!

        Also, educators are not in the business of gender identity. Educators follow the laws laid out for them. Health services and nonprofits also work with, and support the gender identity population. Do we take all their funds away and make private health care and private nonprofits too?

    2. The American Psychiatric Association, publisher of the DSM-5, states that “gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.”

    3. From my extensive experience in education, I am certain that the individual who pays the taxes should be able to determine where that tax dollar goes. That is what I call responsible.

    4. Failing? Says who? DeVos and her gang? If you think public funds should be given to religious schools, you have a limited understanding of religious freedom and the birth of this country.

    5. Just catholic schools? Pretty selective, huh? Just wait, this goes through and every religion out there will be lining up. Ready for that Muslim school down the street?

  4. You can’t under ANY reading of the language of the Michigan Constitution come up with ANY legal rationale for spending tax dollars on private schools. Schuette puts his ideology above the law. If you don’t like the language of the Constitution, then amend the Constitution. Don’t waste our time and money with your slippery attempts to undermine the rule of law to fit your slavish devotion to the DeVos agenda

  5. Done with lying thieving Republicans. Voting straight Dem ticket this year for first time ever. I have always voted for split ticket best choice scenario. Not this time. Not a fan of Gretchen but if she pulls off the primary then that’s where I go. Republicans will be known for a long time as the party of Racists Nazis. What were they thinking?

  6. Bill Schuette, as our Atty. Gen., did absolutely nothing to help the people of Flint; he did nothing to protect the nearly 50,000 Michiganders who were wrongfully accused of Unemployment Compensation Fraud – even after the state admitted there was a 90% error rate in their aptly named MiDAS computer software; and he did nothing to help give healthcare to our people, or make Enbridge shut down Line 5 even after they admitted to hiding maintenance problems. What did he do instead… spent millions of extra of our tax dollars to fight gay marriage up to the Supreme Court and lost. Lost to Dana Nessel, currently running for Michigan’s AG.

  7. Mr. Schuette’s ideas are not good for Michigan schools! We need our money to go toward improving our public schools and promoting education for all – not just an entitled few.

  8. Schuette can bring it on. He will crash and burn worse than Dick DeVos in 2010. We need to take back the State Legislature too!

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