Michigan Student Opportunity Scholarships would represent a dramatic new way to fund learning by facilitating and incentivizing private donations to aid families directly so they could underwrite the cost of needed educational services. Most students would be eligible to benefit from a scholarship, whether enrolled in a public school or not. Enabling parents to have greater say in their children’s learning would help ensure that students get the attention they need to overcome lost learning and get on a successful trajectory.
Beyond these benefits, the design of the program offers a potential cost savings to both the state government and local school agencies. This impact will depend on the average scholarship size granted and the rate of students who switch from public to nonpublic schools as part of the program. Reasonable estimates indicate that thousands of students could be served with new needed options while public schools preserve and even continue to grow their revenues on a per-pupil basis.
The design of the program is advantageous for creating local, flexible arrangements that best meet individual student and family needs, welcoming both traditional and innovative new education service providers to play an active role. It also would provide direct and organic accountability between students, donors and scholarship providers, with limited room for bureaucratic interference beyond the ability to monitor and enforce fiscal integrity.
While the proposal would create the space for a dynamic, nimble and thriving ecosystem, the challenge comes in filling the space with informed parents, confident donors, savvy scholarship administrators and forward-thinking education providers. The opportunity to put student needs and student learning at the center makes the ambitious goal a worthwhile pursuit.