By Mike Kruzman & Jon King /

The governor’s veto of a multi-million dollar reading scholarship program has a local legislator disappointing, claiming it will hurt students.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently line-item vetoed a $155-million reading scholarship program that was included in the fiscal year 2022 School Aid budget. State Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township criticized the move, saying the program would have provided up to $1,000 for students for reading materials, literacy programs and tutoring services. To be eligible, schoolchildren would need to be enrolled between kindergarten and fifth grade and be considered less-than-proficient in reading.

Opponents of the program, including Bob McCann, Executive Director of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan which represents school administrators in many populous counties, told The Bridge that it was a large pot of money that “smelled a bit of vouchers.” McCann said they feel the money would be better spent being invested directly into classrooms to support reading programs, rather than creating a system that only allows some kids access.

Theis, who chairs the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee, said that not being able to read at grade level negatively affects all other aspects of a student’s schooling, with potentially lifelong consequences. Theis called it “terribly sad” that Whitmer is letting “petty politics keep kids from accessing scholarships to help them achieve one of the most important milestones in their lives.”

Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for Whitmer, did eventually respond to WHMI with the following statement. "Governor Whitmer has always said that every student, no matter where they come from, has a birthright to a quality public education. From day one, Governor Whitmer has led the charge for additional resources for literacy supports, including tripling the number of literacy coaches in schools to help students succeed. And under the governor’s leadership, school districts are receiving over $3 billion in federal emergency funds to help support students as they get back into the classroom. We look forward to working with the legislature to continue the conversation about this funding to support literacy initiatives that will help our kids.”