Michigan Gov. Whitmer expected to veto GOP-backed school choice bill

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to veto legislation driven by Republicans in the state that would allow children to qualify for scholarships to attend private schools, with educational expenses such as tutoring being covered by taxpayer dollars.

The fast-tracked bills, introduced less than a week ago, would let individual and corporate taxpayers claim a 100% credit against their income taxes for donations to nonprofit organizations, which would send money to eligible students’ education savings accounts.

“The Michigan Constitution sets up a system of school funding designed to ensure the quality of free public education in Michigan,” said Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy, according to the Detroit Free Press. Leddy also said the legislation allows for “the diversion of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to private institutions.”

FILE – In this July 12, 2021, file photo Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a vaccine mobilization event in Detroit. Gov. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

“Michiganders are tired of the attempts to force a Betsy DeVos-style voucher program that drain resources from our public schools,” Leddy added, saying the “legislation is a non-starter.”

Different bills advancing the proposals were approved by the House and Senate, meaning each chamber will have to approve the same measure before it can reach Whitmer’s desk.

Democrats in the state claim the legislation will give tax breaks to “wealthy donors.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., speaks before Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama speak at a rally at Belle Isle Casino in Detroit, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Very simply, these bills are voucher schemes that have been shamelessly introduced during a pandemic, that would send Michigan taxpayer dollars mainly to private and religious schools while giving generous tax benefits to wealthy donors,” said Democrat state Sen. Dayna Polehanki.

Republicans say the legislation allows parents to control their children’s education.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, center, marches with others, on Woodward during a rally in Highland Park, Thursday, June 4, 2020, in honor of George Floyd, a man who died last week while being arrested by Minneapolis police.  (Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News via AP)

Republican state Sen. Lana Theis, another sponsor, said the state needs “bold, creative solutions to get parents more involved and students back on the path of educational success.”

“No matter a student’s background, we should be doing more to support parents, so they can have a more active and impactful role in their children’s education,” Theis added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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