LANSING, Mich., Oct. 19, 2021 — The Michigan House of Representatives voted today on a two-bill package that flies in the face of public sentiment and the Michigan Constitution regarding public schools. House Bills 5404 and 5405 allow billionaires and corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to private schools toward funding student tuition. The Blaine Amendment to the state constitution, passed by voters in 1970, prohibits public money from going to private schools.
“We know that these bills are unconstitutional, and we know that mechanisms for private donors to support public schools already exist. So the question is, why are these bills coming forward? It is an obvious political ploy from Betsy DeVos and her legislative allies,” said state Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), Democratic vice chair of the House Education Committee. “It’s no coincidence that there is a campaign finance deadline tomorrow. These bills are nothing more than a DeVos litmus test to funnel her enormous wealth to legislators who share her desire to privatize our public schools.”
Since the passage of the Blaine Amendment, anti-public school activists have continued to attack it through the courts and the ballot. It has repeatedly withstood challenges on both fronts; in 2000, Michigan voters rejected allowing public money to go to private schools by a 2-to-1 margin. A new court case is currently working its way through the courts, and these bills, along with identical legislation in the Senate, aim to bolster that suit in its attempt to dismantle a constitutional, popular provision.
“The fact is, these bills will lower Michigan’s tax revenue, which directly impacts our public schools. As a former school board member, I cannot, in good conscience, vote for anything that draws money away from schools, and I’m proud that my colleagues joined me in opposition,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac). “When we entered office, we swore an oath to uphold the state constitution, and this legislation is a clear violation of our state charter. If Republicans want to support children’s education, this is clearly not the way.”
Earlier this year, House Democrats introduced their Respecting Educators bill package, which includes concrete support for teachers, schools and students. The bills have been referred to committee and have gone months without a hearing.