Willingness to Participate in Voucher or Tax Credit Programs

Twenty-nine states in the U.S. have programs that either provide public funds, commonly in the form of a voucher, or some other benefit, such as a tax credit, to help parents (mostly low-income families) afford the cost of private school tuition.[11] States can save money through these types of programs, because supporting a child’s enrollment in a private school, on average, costs less than paying for that same student to attend a public school.

Michigan does not have any such program, because language in the state’s constitution explicitly prohibits them. Despite claiming that “religion, morality and knowledge” are “necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind” and that the “means of education shall forever be encouraged,” the Michigan Constitution also states that no “payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student” at “any private, denominational or other nonpublic pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school.”[12]

Nevertheless, this survey asked private school administrators how willing their school would be to participate in one of these types of programs if one existed in Michigan. From the 289 respondents (87 percent of survey sample), 71 percent said that their school would be “likely” or “very likely” to participate, 16 percent said they were unsure, and 13 percent said that it would be “unlikely” or “very unlikely” that their school would participate.

Despite that a solid majority of private schools would likely participate in these programs, many administrators nevertheless expressed concerns. Most of these concerns centered on worries about what types of “strings” would be attached to such a publicly funded program — for instance, if the state government would require a new level of regulation on them if they participated. Many administrators noted that their schools would participate just so long as they would be able to maintain their autonomy, especially regarding the school’s mission and curriculum.