For MI Kids Launches to Protect Michigan Students, Oppose DeVos Voucher Petition

MICHIGAN – A coalition of parents, educators and families announced today the formation of the For MI Kids, For Our Schools ballot question committee , to stop a Betsy DeVos-backed school voucher proposal that would take hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools across Michigan. The launch of For MI Kids was announced on a Zoom press call and featured commentary from parents, former educators and school administrators.

DeVos’ proposal threatens to take hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools across Michigan, despite an ongoing teacher shortage and the need to invest in more mental health services for students.

“We want quality public schools for all children. We want schools that support each child’s unique and critical needs with access to highly qualified educators, that work with parents and communities to provide access and support for kids and adults alike,” said Casandra Ulbrich, PhD, a For MI Kids spokesperson who also serves as the president of the Michigan State Board of Education. “Unfortunately, BetsyDeVos’ deceptively named ‘Let MI Kids Learn’ proposal is a voucher scheme that could take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the School Aid Fund, harming thef 90% of Michigan students who attend public schools. We are asking voters to decline to sign these petitions and stop this voucher scheme in its tracks. Let’s send a message thatMichigan students are not for sale.”

The For MI Kids coalition represents a broad array of public education advocates, including parents, educators and school administrators. Advocates include: 482Forward, the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, the K-12 Alliance of Michigan, the Michigan Association of School Boards, the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Education Justice Coalition, the Michigan Parent Teacher Association, the Middle Cities Education Association and Progress Michigan.

Parents from Detroit and Northern Michigan spoke out against the proposal today.

“I know that parents, like me, may be frustrated with the state of our public schools, but let me be clear, the answer to our dreams for our kids’ education does not lie within private schools, let alone giving billionaires and millionaires huge tax breaks,” said Arlyssa Heard, a Detroit public schools special education parent and education organizer with 482Forward. “The answer to our kids’ dreams is to invest in our public schools and our communities, and to listen to the needs of parents and students to make sure we get it right.”

“In Northern Michigan and other rural communities, the local public school is often the hub of activity for families in the places we live. They’re the physical places where community happens. This DeVos voucher proposal threatens the well-being of our public schools, placing the heart of our communities under threat,” said Owen Goslin, an elementary school parent in Cheboygan Area Schools. “If you underfund schools, which this proposal aims to do, you undercut the growth and livability of small towns across Michigan.”

Administrators and former educators also voiced their opposition to the DeVos-backed voucher proposal.

“I’ve always equated school voucher campaigns like this one to an iceberg. What you can see on the surface may not look too scary at first glance, but once you take a look below the surface and learn the truth, the destructive impact is very clear,” said Andrew Brodie, superintendent of Flat Rock Community Schools and president of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators. “We’ve looked below the surface and the threat is real. We don’t need a voucher system that’s going to further divide the haves and the have nots, as well as funnel money to for-profit schools at the expense of our kids. This isn’t going to make education better in Michigan.”

“Teachers are unfairly villainized by people with a political agenda, and resources for students are not coming into the classroom like they need to be. Betsy DeVos’ voucher petition will not help the situation,” said Twanda Bailey, a recently retired Detroit Public Schools teacher who taught Kindergarten through 7th grade for over 30 years. “This proposal would take critical resources away from public schools when they can’t afford to lose a single penny. Students are struggling more today with mental health issues than ever before, and we should be boosting services and resources for them directly in schools — not taking funding away that can support those types of programs.”

“I hear it all the time from former colleagues, friends and family still in the classroom: They are reaching a breaking point. We need our state leaders to get together and solve this educator shortage before it’s too late and causes more long-term damage to the next generation,” said Rick Catherman, a recently retired music education teacher from South Haven with 30 years of experience in the classroom. “That means investing in our schools. It means increasing compensation for veteran and new educators. It means investing in mental health support for students. The last thing we should be doing is cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools every year and giving it to private for-profit schools — which is what this dangerous voucher proposal does.”

For MI Kids will be running a robust public education campaign encouraging Michiganders to decline to sign DeVos’ petition and encouraging state legislators in both parties to oppose it as well. 

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