COVID-19 and policies enacted in response to the pandemic have set back learning for many students and frustrated many parents. More than ever, parents are looking for alternatives to the public school model for their children, and, especially in Michigan, they are realizing just how little choice they have.
In 1970, Michigan adopted a discriminatory provision to its constitution that prevents private schools and their students from receiving any form of public aid. Since then, this provision has prevented parents across the state from being able to afford the education of their choice for their child.
Parents might be able to find some relief, though, from something known as 529 education savings accounts. These accounts, originally meant for postsecondary education, also receive favorable tax treatment under federal law. Michigan law lets parents use these for college tuition, but to date, prohibits parents from using them for K-12 tuition. It does, though, let parents use them to pay for public school Tuition Enrollment Programs.
That’s why the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued the state of Michigan on behalf of five families who all have one goal: to give their children the best possible education they can.
The Bagos Family
Spread across the state, these five families have a wide variety of experiences with education choice, some more successful than others. The Bagos family, for example, was forced to enroll their children in the local public school, which did not offer in-person schooling until the end of the 2020-21 school year. While they knew that a local private school would be a better fit for their family, Jessie and Ryan Bagos had other financial constraints and could not afford to send their children to the school they knew would be best for them.
The Hile Family
The Hile family, on the other hand, was successful in enrolling their daughter in the local private school, but that came with other costs. By taking their daughter out of the public school system, they have to pay for tuition. But even more, she is missing out on the Kalamazoo Promise, a scholarship fund for public school children that helps pay for college tuition. Being able to use a 529 education savings plan could greatly cut the family’s costs, both now and in the future.