LANSING, Mich. – Michigan state Rep. Tim Kelly understands the power of school choice.
The Saginaw Township Republican worked on the House Education Subcommittee on Common Core to improve on the national standards for Michigan’s students, but he points out in an editorial for the Detroit Free Press that true impact of the new standards on student outcomes remains unknown.
Kelly believes there’s another way to greatly improve student achievement that has proven successful in other states. He believes in the proven power of school choice.
“Article VIII, Section 1, of the Michigan Constitution states: ‘Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means to education shall forever be encouraged,’” Kelly wrote in the Free Press.
“Since 1970, however, Michigan has turned its back on these lofty words and has strictly prohibited state aid to nonpublic schools. Meanwhile, nearly half of the country, including many Midwest states, offer some form of expanded school choice through tax credits, scholarships or vouchers to attend nonpublic schools,” he wrote.
Kelly explains that public school funding in Michigan is based on an allocated per-pupil amount. The system essentially works the same way as a voucher in that students can attend any traditional or public charter school in the state and the funding follows the student. Currently, Michiganders can’t use the funding to attend private or parochial schools, but Kelly wants to expand the funding method to provide universal school choice – the option to attend any school in the state.
“This reform would empower parents whose kids are in failing school districts. Right now, many students are trapped in these districts with little recourse other than to follow state-prescribed remedies that may or may not be the right fit for each student,” Kelly wrote.
“Giving students the chance to attend more schools with their designated per-pupil funding will improve their chances at attaining a quality education – and thereby better success in life,” he continued. “Allowing more uses of per-pupil funding would make our public schools more responsive and accountable to students and parents because their funding could go elsewhere if they fail to live up to academic expectations.”
Kelly cites recent statistics that show students in the United States, and Michigan in particular, are falling farther and farther behind their peers in other developed countries each year.
Proposal A, the ballot initiative passed in 1970 to prohibit state aid to nonpublic schools, is holding Michigan back by limiting educational options for Michigan students, Kelly wrote.
Because education is so critical to every aspect of life, it only makes sense to give students and parents the most and best educational options available, and let them choose the most appropriate schools for their particular needs.
“As such, it’s long past due to erase the mistake of a 43-year-old misguided ballot initiative that keeps Michigan from educational excellence,” Kelly wrote.
Considering the academic improvement resulting from voucher programs in Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, Indiana and other places, broadening school choice in Michigan certainly makes sense.