by Bruce Walker
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed 2024 budget cuts for online public charter schools are receiving some pushback from school choice advocates and legislators.
On Friday, a group of eight lawmakers led by Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, sent the governor a letter seeking to convince her to change course from her proposed 20% per-pupil cut for online charter schools, whereas online public school students did not receive a per-pupil funding cut.
The governor previously defended her proposed cuts by saying online schooling requires less physical infrastructure than brick-and-mortar schools. However, she didn’t address why she proposed appropriating more money to traditional public online schools than charter public online schools.
“It’s disingenuous when our governor claims online public charter schools don’t deserve equal funding because they don’t have the same costs that brick-and-mortar schools do — traditional public schools also offer online schooling, but the governor doesn’t target those students with her funding cuts,” Meerman told The Center Square. “The fact is she values some students more than others.”
Meerman and letter co-authors identify online charter schools as especially helpful for immunocompromised students, students who have experienced bullying, and students requiring other special accommodations.
“We, the Republican members of the House and Senate School Aid and PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittees, write to you today to urge equal funding for every student in public education, whether that be a student in a public school, public charter school, or online charter public school,” the letter reads, noting that approximately 10% of Michigan public school students, 150,240, attend public charter schools. Of that number, 21,200 are enrolled in online charter learning.
“Public charter schools need equal funding of students to keep class sizes small and to help teachers buy books for the classroom,” the letter continues. “Decreasing the funding of charter public schools singles out certain public schools as being less than others.”
Michigan Association of Public School Academies President Dan Quisenberry concurs with Meerman and his cohorts.
“It’s unacceptable that any student would be told they’re worth less simply because they attend a different type of public school,” Quisenberry told The Center Square. “The students who are affected by this funding cut include some of the most vulnerable children in the state – students who are dealing with medical and mental issues, students who are enrolled in their school because they fear for their safety, members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
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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 “Luke Meerman” by Michigan House Republicans. Background Photo “Classroom” by 2y.kang.