Rochester Hills – Former Vice President Mike Pence returned to Michigan on Tuesday, saying he wants to encourage families to “take control of education” in the state by backing a scholarship and tax credit program that could help send students to private schools.
Pence, appearing with former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, spoke at a rally inside Lutheran Northwest, a high school in Rochester Hills, participated in a political discussion and answered questions medias.
The goal of Pence and DeVos, two nationally prominent Republican figures, was backing an ongoing petition effort to create tax breaks and a scholarship program that families could use to pay for tutoring and potentially send children in private religious schools.
“With leadership in Lansing, Michigan, we can let every family in Michigan choose where their children go to school, public, private, parochial, Christian or home school,” Pence said at one point Tuesday. “And it’s an idea whose time has come.”
Their arguments for the proposal often referred to some parents’ lingering frustration with how schools are operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents, according to DeVos and Pence, should have more control over the decisions that influence their children’s education.
“I think it all comes down to who decides,” Pence said.
The Let MI Kids Learn campaign, which launched in November, focuses on two petitions that would change Michigan tax laws to allow donors to get tax credits on money donated to a scholarship fund. studies that could then be used for education expenses for families across the state.
The program would be capped at $500 million in contributions each year.
Critics of the campaign say the idea is to set up a “voucher system” in Michigan and divert tax money to private schools. Meanwhile, the state constitution currently prohibits tax benefits from going to private schools.
“We believe in providing a quality education to every child, no matter who they are or where they live – and we know the best way to do that is to fully and fairly fund our public schools,” said Lonnie Scott, spokesperson for the group. For MI Kids, for our future. “We will not sit idly by and allow the DeVos family to fund public education in our state, and we remain committed to opposing the Let MI Kids Learn initiative.”
A petition campaign must muster 340,047 valid signatures to send a proposal to the GOP-led Legislature for passage. This approach would avoid a veto from Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer because she would have no say.
Pence, previously governor of Indiana, was former President Donald Trump’s running mate in 2016 and 2020. During both campaigns, Pence traveled frequently to Michigan, a key battleground state that Trump has won in 2016 but lost in 2020.
Tuesday’s stop in Michigan was Pence’s first public appearance here since the day before the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election. Many Republicans say Pence plans to run for president himself in 2024.
He did not speak about his political ambitions on Tuesday, instead focusing on the Let MI Kids Learn proposals.
Pence and DeVos pushed back against the idea that parents already have a choice of where their children go to school and that their plan could violate the state Constitution.
“There are many families in Detroit and many families across Michigan who don’t have a choice,” Pence told reporters. “They don’t have the economic means to move to a school district where the schools are better, safer, or more efficient, or they just don’t have the option to leave public school.”
DeVos, a political donor and advocate for school choice, said the scholarship program would give parents flexibility.
“Education savings accounts go to families,” DeVos said. “Families make those choices and those decisions. They don’t go to religious schools…only if the families choose to.”
Pence addressed a crowd of about 500 at a Lutheran high school gymnasium on Tuesday afternoon. His speech lasted about 10 minutes before he took pictures with the participants.
Pence said it was “the fault of the government” that some students were “trapped in failing schools” and others faced “political indoctrination”.
“It’s a lack of leadership,” Pence said. “But it doesn’t have to be like that.”
According to the Let MI Kids Learn campaign, more than one million Michigan public school students could qualify for the proposed scholarship program, including students with special needs, those eligible for free and reduced lunch, and those with 200% or less of free and reduced lunch. eligibility threshold.
Students in traditional public schools could receive $500 in aid. Those who want to use the program to attend private schools could get 90% of the per-student funding allocation that goes to public schools through the state, which will likely be more than $7,000.