The Michigan Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a bill that would require money from school enhancement millages to be given to charter and virtual schools located in the communities that approve the additional taxes.
Contact your state senator and representative to voice opposition now. And urge friends, family members, and neighbors to get involved. Many parents are opposed to this change in school funding rules, and those community voices are needed to fight back. Nine out of 10 Michigan school children attend traditional public schools.
Enhancement millages are regional tax levies approved by voters within a region and administered by intermediate school districts. Under SB 574, the money raised would have to be split with charter schools that exist in the region and virtual schools that are headquartered within its boundaries.
Six regions have enhancement millages through these ISD’s: Wayne-RESA, Kalamazoo, Kent, Midland, Monroe, and Muskegon. While the measure would not apply retroactively to those that have already passed such a millage, it would have a major impact on new millages and renewals. As an example, in Wayne County, a 10-year enhancement millage shared by 33 public school districts would have to be split with 100 charter schools, under the proposal.
About 83 percent of Michigan charter schools are for-profit businesses operated by unaccountable boards of directors with little or no financial transparency to allow the public to see how tax money is spent. There is no guarantee the millage money would benefit students instead of padding corporate profits.
In addition, it’s well known that virtual schools have greatly reduced operational costs, compared to brick-and-mortar schools. But school administrators opposed to the change point out that most charter schools also do not bear similar costs for transportation, special education, and employee pension payments as traditional public schools do.
Meanwhile, overall public school funding in Michigan remains below pre-recession levels, and several recent studies and reports have found the state’s education spending to be inadequate.
Parents and other advocates do not want more money taken from public schools to fund for-profit charter schools. This issue can provide a bridge to build partnerships with allies who aren’t school employees but would be willing to join us in the fight for public education.