by Bruce Walker
Lawmakers in the House and Senate are drafting a supplemental bill to restore charter school programs vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. One of those programs would return $35 million previously denied charter schools.
The supplemental bill may be presented to Whitmer as early as next week. If she signs it, charter schools may receive all state payments for the school year due them by the end of January.
A crowd of charter school employees, parents, students and advocates gathered outside the office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday to protest her veto of the nearly $35 million in state aid.
The Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) organized the Wednesday afternoon event, which featured speakers reciting a list of 1,000 names of Michigan charter school students.
“At the very moment our people were reading the names of charter school students outside the governor’s office, the House and Senate were across the street at the Capitol voting to restore their funding,” MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry told the Center Square. “That was so gratifying to see, and we’re hopeful and optimistic that the governor will now sign the bills.
“From the very beginning, charter school parents, teachers and principals were outraged that their students were being valued less by the governor, and for the past two-plus months, they’ve made their feelings known. It’s obviously made a huge impact on everyone in Lansing.”
Earlier this year, Whitmer was presented a budget that included a $240 per pupil increase for all public schools in the state, including public charter schools. Whitmer zeroed out more than $900 million from that budget, leaving intact the $240 increase for traditional public schools while vetoing the increase for charter schools.
“We’re here to let the governor know this isn’t right,” Elvin Caldwell, school community liaison at Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy in Lansing, said. Caldwell was on-hand to read names with two of his students.
“Our kids should be worth just as much as every other student in Michigan.” he said.
MAPSA has organized several events to protest Whitmer’s budget cuts, including one outside the governor’s office in downtown Detroit in October and a press conference outside the governor’s Lansing office in November.
“At our last board meeting, our board decided to pass a resolution in support of fair funding for schools,” Laura Burwell said in November. Burwell is president of Light of the World Academy, a Montessori charter school board in Pinckney.
“All of the other traditional public schools in our state received an increase in per-pupil funding, whereas the charter schools did not,” Burwell said. “We felt it was important to send a message to our representatives in the strongest way available to us that we find that to be unfair to our students.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Charter School Supporters” by Michigan’s Charter Schools.