Poll shows DeVos-backed education initiative lacks support

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks with state and local leaders from Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Thursday, October 3, 2019. | Official White House Photo by Stephanie Chasez via Flickr Public Domain

By Allison R. Donahue, Michigan Advance

With one day left before ballot initiative signatures must be submitted to either land on the November ballot or get adopted by the Legislature, a recent poll released Tuesday shows most Michigan voters oppose the Let MI Kids Learn initiative. 

The group is backed by Betsy DeVos, the former U.S. Education secretary under former President Trump and a West Michigan native who has been a longtime champion for charter schools. The ballot measure would create the Student Opportunity Scholarship program to pay for K-12 public or private school tuition and fees, homeschooling materials and online learning programs for students who have financial need. 

The initiative also aims to allow contributions to that scholarship program to be tax deductible.

According to the poll by EPIC-MRA, respondents opposed the Let MI Kids Learn initiative by a margin of 48% to 36%. 

The Let MI Kids Learn campaign did not respond to a request to comment on the poll results. 

One group that opposes the initiative is the Washtenaw Association of Retired School Personnel, which calls it a “devious go-around” of state law that prohibits state dollars to fund private schools.

“Despite the compelling title, LMKL presents a clear and present danger to public school funding in Michigan,” the group of retired educators said in a statement. “Michigan voters have overwhelmingly voted down voucher systems in state-wide referendums.

Petitions to create a new law must submit at least 340,047 valid signatures, 8% of the vote in the last gubernatorial election, by June 1. 

Let MI Kids Learn did not respond when asked how many signatures they have collected and will be submitting Wednesday.

“This polling makes it clear: Once Michiganders understand what the Let MI Kids Learn proposal would do to our public schools, they know it’s the wrong choice for our state,” said Lonnie Scott, spokesperson for For MI Kids, For Our Schools. “And even those who aren’t opposed to the proposal itself still think the Legislature should give voters the chance to decide at the polls instead of passing it into law themselves.”

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