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Senate passes legislation to give parents, students additional tools toward successful education

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ken Horn on Tuesday voted in favor of legislation that would create Michigan Opportunity Scholarship Accounts that can be used by families for education or learning expenses.

“Our state constitution guarantees students a free education,” said Horn, R-Frankenmuth. “The reality is the pandemic has left a number of students far behind in their studies and many are having a difficult time catching up.

“These bills will help parents of K-12 students get the tools they need to help their kids get back on track.”

Senate Bills 687 and 688 create the Let Kids Learn plan, which would establish scholarships for eligible K-12 students in Michigan to use for some educational expenses. The plan prioritizes scholarships for children receiving free and reduced lunch, children in foster care, and students with disabilities.

The amount students would receive would be based on the student’s eligibility requirements and the type of school they attend. Any student in a household with an annual income within 200% of the free and reduced lunch program threshold would also qualify.

“Teachers across Michigan work very hard and did the best they could with the tools handed to them during a time of unprecedented difficulty — there’s no denying that,” Horn said. “But when students and parents are dealing with learning loss, mental health issues, and access issues at home, it slows down the recovery process and only further hurts the students. These two bills would give parents choices along with additional tools to better direct the education of their own children.”

Accounts could be used by families for education or learning expenses — both inside and outside the classroom, including tuition and fees for public, nonpublic or online K-12 schools; career and technical education programs; Wi-Fi and laptops; textbooks and materials; transportation; occupational, behavioral and speech therapies; tutoring services; mental health services; and more.

The funds would be strictly for school-related expenses, and any refunds, returns or rebates would be credited back to a student’s scholarship account for future educational use. Annual reports would be required by the Department of Treasury to ensure proper use of scholarship funds by the scholarship granting organizations.

Scholarships would be funded by donations from businesses, foundations and individuals, who would receive state tax credits for their giving. All proceeds would be collected by approved nonprofit scholarship granting organizations, which would deposit the money into families’ scholarship accounts.

If enacted, Michigan would join several other states that offer, with great success, similar education savings accounts and tax-credit scholarships.

SB’s 687 and 688 were approved by the Senate and now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.