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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Whitmer should support school choice, including private school

As a K-12 public school teacher, my mission every day for 23 years was to help my students learn, grow, and thrive. Knowing each of my students had unique needs and skills I developed lessons that allowed each of them to be successful and achieve their full potential.

Rep. Pamela Hornberger
Rep. Pamela Hornberger is a Republican who represents the 32nd District, which includes Chesterfield Township in Macomb County. She is chair of the House Education Committee. (Courtesy photo)

Serving as the chairwoman of the House Education Committee, my goal is to put the needs of Michigan’s students and families above all else. Each student is unique and needs different things to support their growth and success as they pursue a career, college or whatever path life might take them.

This week our Michigan Legislature put students and families first, passing historic legislation known as “Let Kids Learn.” The legislation will empower families with the financial resources to help their children succeed academically. Families will oversee what education path is best for their unique student, not the government.

The legislation will give families the resources for tutoring, technology, access to specialized courses, therapies for a student with special needs, workforce training programs, after school care, transportation, and even the ability to attend a different school. Whatever the student needs, Michigan families will have the resources to purchase through an education savings account funded by donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations.

More than 1 million Michigan students stand to benefit if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs these important bills into law. One million students will have better opportunities to improve their education and broaden their future.

Not surprising, critics have suggested these scholarships would harm public school students. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Public school students would be eligible to receive these education savings accounts, enabling them to access learning opportunities their school district is not able to offer.

Additionally, thanks to a historic budget increase passed by the Legislature this year, Michigan’s public schools are currently benefiting from record funding levels, as well as more than $6 billion in additional federal funding. Michigan’s public schools have never had more money than they do today.

Unfortunately, our governor has chosen on several occasions to veto bills that would directly benefit students in education, most recently a modest proposal to help students improve their reading skills which was desperately needed during the pandemic learning loss.

The latest M-STEP student achievement data shows math and reading scores were down dramatically. Six out of 10 third graders are not proficient readers. A staggering 85 percent of fifth graders aren’t proficient in social studies.

Michigan will not be able to compete economically if we continue to refuse to equip our future workforce with the basic skills needed to succeed. Our students today will not be prepared to be our leaders tomorrow if we do not fulfill our promise of a world-class education.

We have an astronomical amount of work to do to get Michigan education to “world-class.”

The Student Scholarship bills passed this week would be a direct investment in the success of Michigan students. Let’s hope the governor is willing to finally put Michigan students and families first. We owe it to every Michigan student to give them every chance at success.

Michigan Opportunity Scholarship Accounts will give more than 1 million kids more opportunities unique to their needs and will put families in charge of those decisions. I urge Gov. Whitmer, do what’s best for Michigan students and sign these bills.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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