Kids First! Yes!
FREQUENT QUESTIONS ON SCHOOL VOUCHERS
1. What is guaranteed funding for public schools?
The state of Michigan used to give public schools money in one lump sum each year. Now schools receive money for each child that they teach. Each year the state uses a formula to determine the 'per-child' funding levels for each public school district.
In 1994 when voters passed Proposal A, a minimum amount of funding that each school would receive per-child was established. Schools received a guarantee that they would receive no less than $5,492 per-child, on average.
When the state legislature passed the 2001 school aid budget in June, they brought school funding levels to an all-time high, an average of $6,643 per-child. Kids First! Yes! will update the guarantee of 1994 and lock in those increased funding levels. That means an increased minimum guarantee of nearly two billion dollars for Michigan's public schools!
2. Why do public schools need this funding guarantee?
The Kids First! Yes! funding guarantee will protect school districts against a cut in their per-child funding due to a recession or a change in funding priorities by politicians.
Michigan has been blessed these past eight years with a robust economy that has generated significant increases in school funding. Some economists believe a recession is inevitable in the near future, given the length of the current recovery. In the past 20 years there have been five national recessions, and, on average, Michigan has been hit harder than the nation each time.
If the Michigan economy goes into a severe recession during the next several years, state per-child funding to school districts could be reduced by as much as 30 percent from current levels. Reductions of this magnitude would be severe given the large enrollment increases many districts have experienced in recent years.
Kids First! Yes! secures school funding and protects parents and kids.
3. What is teacher testing?
Teacher testing means giving teachers a competency test in their main subject area on a regular basis. Teacher testing would give parents, administrators and taxpayers the information they need to judge the quality of their teachers.
4. Who will receive Opportunity Scholarships?
Any parent of a school-age child that lives in a failing public school district will receive an Opportunity Scholarship, also known as a tuition voucher. There are over 200,000 children that currently attend public school districts that fail to graduate at least two out three of their students. Parents that are forced to send their children to the schools in these failing districts would automatically receive scholarship money worth $3,300, only half of what public schools get, to give them the freedom to choose a non-public school if they wish. Other school districts can vote locally to opt in to the voucher program.
5. How will Opportunity Scholarships work?
Similar to the way that the G.I. Bill and Pell Grants helped thousands of students afford college, Opportunity Scholarships will give thousands of students the opportunity for a quality education. Since parents direct where the money is spent and not the state, Opportunity Scholarships are just as constitutional as the G.I Bill and do not violate the separation of church and state.
6. How will Opportunity Scholarships increase education choices for at-risk families in Michigan?
Opportunity Scholarships worth $3,300 will provide parents with an equal opportunity to provide a quality education for their children. The average cost of non-public schools tuition in Michigan is around $3,000. There are dozens of inner city non-public schools that have the capacity and are willing to serve the at-risk families in their community.
There is a high demand for more school choice among at-risk families that most desperately need a quality education for their children. 70 percent of charter schools have waiting lists on average of 187 kids. Over 60,000 Detroit families have recently applied for similar scholarships through a private foundation.
There is a minimum of 55,000 openings for students in Michigan's non-public schools that could accommodate these at-risk students.
7. Will non-public schools be more regulated if they take state money?
non-public schools would have to test their teachers in academic subjects only just like public school teachers. non-public schools are not compelled to accept Opportunity Scholarships, so if they object to teacher testing, they need not participate in the Opportunity Scholarship program and would be completely unaffected by this ballot proposal.
ALL Kids First!
To support public education
you must understand the Voucher debate
Vouchers reduce public school education funding. In Michigan 11% of the students attending K-12 education go to private or parochial schools. If a voucher plan were instituted today, state funding would be stretched to cover those additional students . . . and this is before any student currently in public schools was accepted at a private or parochial school.
Vouchers do not enhance public and private school competition. The two operate under different sets of regulations. All students have a right to attend public schools. Private schools choose their students based on their own criteria. Unlike charter schools, private and parochial schools do not have to be accredited, hire certified teachers, hold open budget hearings or public board of education meetings.
Vouchers fail to solve inequitable school financing and under funding of education. In fact, the drain on public education dollars could increase the disparity. Private schools would have the option of charging additional tuition to make up educational costs and advantages. Under Michigan's new finance system, public schools cannot go to their voters and ask for additional operating millage to enhance or replace lost dollars.
Evaluations of existing voucher programs have not found them to be successful. Though a recent Harvard study of the Milwaukee system showed that there was some improvement for minority males in Math and Science after they'd been in the voucher program for 3 years, the question is--was it vouchers that increased test performance or lower class size and parental involvement?
Vouchers violate the constitutional guarantee of church-state separation by subsidizing religious schools.
Vouchers raise legal questions regarding the enforcement of civil rights laws. Private schools may discriminate on the basis of achievement scores, gender, race, religion, ability or income.
Vouchers are taxation without representation. Vouchers are tax dollars spent according to the policies of private school boards and not through democratically elected school boards.
The bottom line is that vouchers will only help those parents whose children are already enrolled in nonpublic schools.