Michigan K-12 students would become free agents, able to attend any in-state public school that will enroll them and even take different classes at different schools, under a proposal Gov. Rick Snyder released in November. The idea alarms State Board of Education President John Austin: “This is a voucher system," he told the Detroit Free Press. “The answer is not to say, ‘Here's the money. Make your own choices.’”
Michigan’s constitution forbids taxes from funding “nonpublic” schools. It’s the most restrictive of the 38 states with similar amendments. Post-Civil War Protestants championed them to keep tax dollars away from Catholic schools.
The 302-page “open enrollment” plan would link the approximately $6,900 Michigan spends per child directly to individual children. The state, like most, currently allots money to districts and programs, not students. The proposal would also give early high school graduates up to $10,000 for college, expand online learning possibilities, and reduce money to schools that do not improve student test scores.
But it does not allow state money to follow children to private schools. That arrangement defines school vouchers. Instead it allows families to choose among public schools, without regard to district lines. Families who currently attempt that can be prosecuted.
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