We want to start this letter to you by acknowledging that we see you and hear you: This year is hard. But despite our fatigue and frustrations, our profession and public schools are worth fighting for.
An important battle looms, thanks to the likes of Betsy DeVos. She and other public education opponents have teed up a money grab for private schools that would drain at least $500 million a year from the state’s budget for public schools—with potential to increase 20% annually.
Make no mistake: By overwhelm- ing margins, Michigan voters have squashed similar voucher schemes— resoundingly telling lawmakers “NO” to diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools. But GOP leaders in the Legislature are listening to their megadonors instead.
In October, backed by DeVos, Republican lawmakers fast-tracked another effort to ignore the will of voters. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the legislation after it was rushed through the Legislature. Now, another ballot measure is circulating to end-run her office and make a mockery of our democracy. Once again, voters should Decline to Sign—then educate others about this deceptive petition drive.
The petition’s sponsors have no intention of letting voters decide. They plan to press for passage by the Legislature after gathering a mere 400,000 signatures of Michigan voters—just 8% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election—to bypass the governor’s veto.
Misleadingly titled the Student Opportunity Scholarship Act, the voucher scheme offers tax credits for private school tuition to the tune of $500 million in the first year and more in years after. The bills even discriminate against public school students by limiting what they
can receive versus private school counterparts.
We can’t let it happen—especially now, with an educator shortage driven by years of underfunding and disrespect. Even with historic state and national investments in public education—thanks to allies like Gov. Whitmer and President Biden— we have a long way to go toward fully funding our schools.
Unlike those who would siphon funds away from public schools that serve 90% of Michigan children, the vast majority of parents and com- munities love their neighborhood schools. They appreciate all of the educators who make wheels turn on buses, in buildings, and within the minds of young learners.
We must remember that—and stand united with our allies to advo- cate against forces who would rob our students of the promise of public education. In the new year, let’s turn our frustrations to fuel for making the change we wish to see.