House OKs some millage revenue for Michigan charter schools; bill goes back to Senate

LANSING, MICH. - Charter schools in Michigan would be able to share in some millage money under legislation narrowly approved in the House in Lansing on Thursday.

The bill, which passed the Michigan Senate in October, allows charters to receive a portion of the revenue generated by enhancement millages — countywide millages levied by intermediate school districts that provide additional money for the local districts within those ISDs.

Charter schools, which aren't allowed to levy millages, have not been able to take in revenue from those enhancement millages.

The legislation, which has to go back to the Senate because of changes that were made in the House, would not affect existing enhancement millages. But it would affect millage renewals and new enhancement millages.

State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, said it's a matter of fairness.

"Why is it that without this law, we have deemed that traditional public schools have an exclusive right to the taxpayer’s pockets?" Kelly asked. "That’s not fair to me."

Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, also raised the issue of fairness.

"I voted against this bill because it takes money away from traditional public schools and gives it to mostly for-profit charter and cyber schools, even when just days ago, a study was released showing that we need to spend thousands of dollars more per student to properly educate them," Camilleri said in a statement, echoing his words on the House floor.

There currently are six enhancement millages approved by Michigan voters — in Kalamazoo, Kent, Midland, Monroe, Muskegon and Wayne counties.

Wayne County school districts will be hit the hardest if the legislation passes, because the county has more than 100 charter schools. County voters passed a 10-year enhancement millage in 2016 that is generating $80 million annually.

That money is divvied up among the county's 33 school districts, each receiving $376 per student. But if it's renewed, they'll receive $287 per pupil — a loss of $90 per pupil for the traditional districts. Kent County districts would be the second hardest hit — with per-pupil revenue dropping from $212 to $183.

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Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651, or @LoriAHiggins

© 2018 Detroit Free Press


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