Michigan Personal Education Account Initiative (2008)

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The Personal Education Account Initiative did not appear on the November 4, 2008 statewide ballot in Michigan as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would have changed the way Michigan funds education by creating personal education accounts for each student, managed by their parents or guardians. The personal education account (PEA) would have been based on the principles of the G.I. Bill, offering education dollars directly to the students to be spent at a school of their choosing.

Details of the amendment

  • The Personal Education Account initiative maintained the current method of state funding (done on a per pupil basis), but the education funds are deposited into a PEA for each child age four to 18 years, rather than being distributed to school districts. Parents and guardians are free to choose which school to send their children to and what bank or credit union their PEA will be deposited to.
  • State education dollars were placed into PEAs, where every child is provided with the same annual per pupil funding (with exceptions for the disabled). The parent can look at their local school, other schools in their area, and specialty schools that might better suit their child's particular talents, needs, or style.
  • No public school could charge more than the per-pupil rate provided to each child, but they would be free to charge less to attract more students. Prudent spending is rewarded, because the savings do not expire at the end of the year. Unlike a voucher system, where savings from frugal spending go back to the state, wise spending of PEAs by parents become savings, which stay in the account and are added to the next year's per-pupil funding.
  • When the child graduated from high school, annual deposits to the PEA would end, but all funds remaining in the account, due to the choices made over the previous years by the parents, can be spent at any college or university within the State of Michigan over the next 12 years. After 12 years, remaining funds are deposited back into the school aid fund.
  • This initiative would have allowed for the creation of a state agency to collect information on different schools and different banks and make that information available for parents in their choices. They would provide assistance to parents and guardians that requested it, including making the decisions for parents and guardians until such time they felt comfortable making them themselves.
  • In the event of the death of a child, any balance in their PEA would be transferred to the child's next-of-kin's PEA or, if no next-of-kin existed, to the school aid fund.
  • This proposal eliminated taxes on schools and school employees.

Supporters

This amendment was sponsored by the Personal Education Account Committee, Timothy Kachinski chairman. The groups slogan was "Money tied to Students, Power tied to Parents."

"What makes more sense: One person making thousands of decisions, or thousands of people making one decision: Where is my child going to go to school?"[1]

Proponents argued that just as the G.I. Bill forces colleges and universities to respond to the preference of veterans, the PEA would force schools to respond to the needs of Michigan students and the demands of the parents.

Supporters said the government would no longer be able to favor certain schools over others. If you want to send your child to a school that specializes in a certain area, be it music, theatre, science, or electronics, you can do so. Schools that are serving students and parents needs will thrive, while those not doing so will fail.

Teachers would be responsible to their school and to their students, rather than having to follow a state forced curriculum. Teachers with common teaching methods will be entirely free to open up schools that offer a unique method of teaching as either charter schools or privately-run teachers union schools.

Supporters of the amendment argued, schools had no incentive to cater to the individual needs of the students, because the funding comes not from students or parents, but from a funding formula. Consequently, schools would be run according to whoever controls the school district. Parents and students whose educational needs and priorities do not match the majority in that district are forced to be educated in a manner that may not be best for them. If a parent objected to what their child were being taught, they could take their child elsewhere, rather than suffering or having to keep everyone else at the school from having access to the objectionable curriculum, one which others may consider valuable.

"How can we expect to attract the best schools and the best teachers if we do not allow competitive schools that teachers want to teach in? How can we expect to prevent failure in education if we do not permit failure of schools? How can we expect success in education if we do not encourage success in our schools? The reality is that some schools will and ought to succeed and some schools will and ought to fail," according to the initiative committee's web site.

And, proponents added, just as veterans have a reason to make their G.I. Bill education dollars go as far as they can, Michigan parents would have the incentives to make prudent decisions with their children's PEAs. Proponents point out that the initiative enables every parent to provide a college fund for their child—with money that normally would have been wasted by the government but is spent more wisely by parents with an incentive to do so.

Opponents

No specific opponents were identified.

Status

Petitions for the initiative were circulated, but supporters were unable to collect sufficient signatures. Proponents needed at least 380,126 valid signatures by July 7, 2008, to be placed on the November 2008 ballot.

As of April 25, 2008, the website for the group had been deleted, and the free account on myspace.com that hosted it had been deleted.

See also

External links

As of April 25, 2008, the website for the group had been deleted, and the free account on myspace.com that hosted it had been deleted.

References