Michigan House votes to let charters get regional taxes
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A divided state House narrowly voted Thursday to let charter schools receive revenue from voter-approved property tax hikes that now only goes to traditional public schools, a move that cleared the legislation’s path toward final enactment and reignited a long-standing fight between Republicans and Democrats over charters.
Voters in six intermediate, or countywide, school districts have approved the so-called enhancement millages — including in two of Michigan’s largest counties: Wayne and Kent. The taxes collected go to the counties’ traditional school districts on a per-student basis, on top of their state funding.
The bill , which the GOP-led Senate passed previously and may send to Gov. Rick Snyder as early as next week once changes are reviewed, would let publicly funded charter academies get a share of the extra local funding once a millage is renewed or a new one is approved. It won House approval 55-52, just enough for passage, as eight Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.
Republicans supporting the measure said all students deserve to be on equal footing, and it would aid 73,000 charter students in counties that have enhancement taxes.
“Students in traditional schools are not — and I repeat — not worth more than students in our public charter schools,” Rep. Daniela Garcia of Holland said in remarks before the vote.
Democrats accused the GOP of overriding voters’ wishes and “stealing” from traditional schools to help charters, many of which are managed by companies. Rep. Kristy Pagan of Wayne County’s Canton Township said her local district would lose $1.5 million annually under the legislation. Rep. Darrin Camilleri of Brownstown Township said the bill would shift $1.4 million from traditional schools in his district to charters in Wayne County.
“Our taxpayer dollars should not be used to line the pockets of corporate executives,” he said.
The legislation would have the biggest impact in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas. Wayne County districts now receiving about $376 per pupil would get $287 once charters are added, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency. In Kent County, a $212 per-student grant would drop to $183.
The House Fiscal Agency said decreased funding for traditional schools would vary depending on the number of charter students in a county and factors such as home values. The special taxes in Kalamazoo, Kent, Midland, Monroe, Muskegon and Wayne counties are due to expire between this year and 2026 unless they are renewed.
Senate Bill 574: http://bit.ly/2kZS4Ta