GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Treasury has notified the Grand Rapids Public Schools that is has received one of the five new Michigan Promise Zone designations. That moves the district closer to establishing a Promise Zone development.
GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal announced at Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Grand Rapids Board of Education that the district is now among 15 entities eligible to establish a Promise Zone under the Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act. Originally, the Legislature had allotted 10 slots but expanded that number to 15 last year.
“This is a game-changing opportunity for children and families throughout Grand Rapids,” said Weatherall Neal, “While I know this is just the first step in a process, I cannot deny my excitement about the potential of what this may mean for the future of our community’s children.”
GRPS communications director John Helmholdt tells FOX 17 the proposed Grand Rapids Promise Zone authority would determine whether the GRPS zone will cover tuition and fees for associate degree level students (the minimum) or if it would cover students through the bachelor degree level (the maximum).
“This is not just for GRPS kids, but for any student in public, charter, parochial or private school,” said Helholdt. “They would all be eligible for the minimum tuition and fees.”
The history of Promise Zones goes back to the Kalamazoo Promise a decade ago. Helmholdt says the law allows designated entities (school district, intermediate school district, parochial, or municipality) to capture up to 50 percent of the yearly growth in the state education tax via tax increment financing (TIFA).
The next steps required to make the Promise Zone a reality include the Grand Rapids Board of Education passing a resolution to formally establish the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority. The resolution may be taken up by the school board at its next meeting on September 17. If approved, the authority will be comprised of 11 members, nine selected by the school district and two appointed by the heads of the Michigan House and Senate.
Once appointed, the authority is tasked with creating a Promise Zone development plan which outlines the specific parameters of the financial Promise, as well as the financial resources necessary to fund the Promise.