School Voucher Supporters Hope to Get Around Whitmer’s Veto

Let MI Kids Learn is preparing a petition initiative that, if successful, could circumvent the governor and become law without her input.

Empty classroom

Photo Credit: Laura Herberg, WDET

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed Republican-led bills that would have created tax breaks for private school education in Michigan.

MichMash hosts Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk with Michigan Public Radio Network state Capitol reporter Colin Jackson about how supporters of the effort hope to get around Gov. Whitmer’s veto pen.

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In her veto letter, Whitmer said that the legislation “would require Michigan taxpayers to foot the bill for any money a person gives to certain private education organizations, costing as much as $500 million in 2022 alone.”

“Simply put, our schools cannot provide the high-quality education our kids deserve if we turn private schools into tax shelters for the wealthy,” Whitmer wrote.

Whitmer and other opponents of the bills say they are a backdoor school voucher program. Private school vouchers are banned under a 1970 state constitutional amendment.

Supporters, on the other hand, say the legislation is about giving students and families more choice over their educational options. They are ready to make an attempt to get around the governor’s veto.

The new group Let MI Kids Learn is planning a petition initiative, which could send its proposal to the Republican-controlled state Legislature if it gets about 340,000 valid signatures. If the Legislature passes the measure with a simple majority, it becomes law. The governor would not need to sign the legislation and could not veto it.

Related: Michigan’s Petition Initiative Process Is A Mess

“I spoke with Fred Wszolek who’s the spokesperson for this effort earlier this week,” says Jackson. “And he kind of just alluded to something that’s already been becoming more and more clear that, for Republican priorities, especially ones that Democrats won’t sign on to during divided government, this seems to be the preferred way of getting those done.”

Jackson says the group hopes to start gathering signatures around December 1.

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.