The school law of Michigan/Powers of Votes at District Meetings

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By the school laws of the state certain powers and duties are delegated to the voters of the district, certain other powers and duties are given wholly to the district officers, while still other powers and duties are given to the district officers with the consent of a majority of the qualified voters. School officers and patrons of schools would save themselves much controversy and litigation, if each would carefully study and correctly determine where the authority rests and, having thus informed himself, carefully avoid assuming responsibility which belongs to others. In this book we shall attempt to arrange these powers and duties in such an order that they may be better understood by those who are entrusted with their enforcement.

Primary Districts.

The qualified voters in any school district, when lawfully assembled at the first and at each annual meeting or at an adjournment thereof or at any special meeting lawfully called, except as otherwise provided, have power:

APPOINT CHAIRMAN. 1. At any meeting after the organization of the district, in the absence of the moderator, to appoint a chairman and, in the absence of the director, to appoint a person to act in his stead.

ADJOURN. 2. To adjourn from time to time as occasion may require.

ELECT OFFICERS. 3. To elect district officers.

LOCATE SITES. 4. To designate a site or such number of sites as maybe desired for school houses, and to change the same when necessary.

DIRECT PURCHASING OF SITES, ETC. 5. To direct the purchasing or leasing of a site or sites, lawfully determined upon; also the building, hiring, or purchasing of a school house or houses, or the enlarging of a site or sites previously established.

TAX FOR SITES OR BUILDING PURPOSES. 6. To vote such tax as the meeting may deem sufficient for purchasing or leasing a site or sites, or for building, or for hiring or purchasing a school house or houses; but the amount of taxes to be raised in any district for the purpose of purchasing or building a school house or houses in the same year that any bonded indebtedness is incurred, shall not exceed, in districts containing less than ten children between the ages of five and twenty years, two hundred and fifty dollars; in districts having between ten and thirty children of like age, it shall not exceed five hundred dollars; and in districts having between thirty and fifty children of like age, it shall not exceed one thousand dollars. (See also Chap. X.)

TAX FOR REPAIRS OR NECES5ARY APPENDAGES. 7. To impose such tax as shall be necessary to keep the school house or houses in repair, and to provide the necessary appendages and school apparatus; in districts having district libraries, to provide for the support of the same, and to pay and discharge any debts or liabilities of the district lawfully incurred, and also to pay for the services of any district officer. The tax herein authorized to be voted shall not exceed one-half the amount which the district is authorized to raise for building school houses. (See also Chap. X.)

SALE OF SCHOOL PROPERTY. 8. To authorize and direct the sale of any school house, site, building, or other property belonging to the district, when the same shall no longer be needed for the use of the district.

9. To give such directions and make such provisions as they SUITS AGAINST DISTRICT. shall deem necessary in relation to the prosecution or defense of any suit or proceeding in which the district may be a party or interested.


10. To appoint, as in their discretion it may be necessary, a building committee to perform such duties in supervising the work of building a school house as they, by vote, may direct.

LENGTH OF SCHOOL YEAR. 11. At the first and the annual meetings only, to determine the length of time a school shall be taught in their district during the ensuing year, which shall not be less than nine months in districts having eight hundred children over five and under twenty years of age, and not less than five months in all other districts, on pain of forfeiture of their share of the primary school interest fund (Act 15, 1895). But in case such matters shall not be determined at the first or annual meetings, the district board shall determine the same; and in case the district fails to vote for at least the minimum length required herein, the district board shall make provisions for said minimum length of school.

SURPLUS OF ONE-MILL TAX. 12. To appropriate any surplus moneys arising from the one mill tax (after having maintained a school in the district at least eight months in the school year), for the purpose of purchasing and enlarging school sites, or for building or repairing school houses, or for purchasing library books, globes, maps, and other school apparatus, or for any incidental expenses of the school (5053).

BORROW MONEY. 13. By a two-thirds vote of the qualified electors present at any annual meeting or a special meeting called for that purpose, to borrow money and issue bonds to pay for a school-house site or sites, and to erect and furnish school building (5103).

TRANSFER TO ANOTHER FUND. 14. To decide by a two-thirds vote of the tax-paying voters of the district, to use money for some purpose other than that for which it was raised (5063).

SCHOOL SITES. 15. To designate by a two-thirds vote of those present, such number of sites as may be desired for school houses (5114).

ESTABLISH LIBRARY. 16. By a two-thirds vote, to establish a district library (Act 158, 1893).

FURNISH TEXT-BOOKS. 17. To vote to furnish free text-books to all the pupils of the district (Act 147, 1889).

CLOSE SCHOOL HOUSE. 18. To vote to close school house against public meetings (5066).

Qualified Voters at District Meetings.

By the provisions of Act No. 15, Laws of 1895, the qualification of voters at school meetings is limited to citizens of the United States, and of the state, township, and school district in which such citizens offer to vote. The legal qualification of voters at school meetings is a subject of much discussion and controversy, and we give below carefully prepared statements of the necessary qualifications:

QUESTIONS NOT INVOLVING RAISING OF MONEY. 1. On all questions which do not directly involve the raising of money by a tax, all citizens, male or female, who have resided in the district the three months next preceding the school meeting, who are twenty-one years of age and are parents or legal guardians of children included in the school census, may vote.

PROPERTY QUALIFICATIONS. 2. All citizens, male or female, who are twenty-one years of age and are the owners of property assessed for school taxes, may vote on all questions at district meetings.

WOMEN BARRED FROM VOTING. 3. In township districts organized under Act 176 of the Laws of 1891, and in several cities organized by special legislative enactment, the right to vote is given only to those who are qualified voters for township and city officers. The legal voters for school officers at such district meetings, therefore, are only those who have the right to vote the entire township or city ticket (Act 176, 1891; 59 Mich. 165; 76 Mich. 1). Act No. 138, Public Acts of 1893, giving women the right to vote in all school, city, and village elections, was declared unconstitutional by our supreme court.


The powers and duties of voters in graded school districts are the same as those in primary districts, so far as such powers and duties are consistent with the law for the organization of graded districts. The following is taken from the first section of the act:

ELECTION OF TRUSTEES. Any school district containing more than one hundred children between the ages of five and twenty years may, by a two-thirds vote of the qualified electors present at any annual or special meeting, organize as a graded school district: Provided That the intention to take such vote shall be expressed in the notice of such annual or special meeting. When such change in the organization of the district shall have been voted, the voters at such annual or special meeting shall proceed immediately to elect by ballot from the qualified voters of the district, one trustee for the term of one year, two for the term of two years, and two for a term of three years, and annually thereafter a successor or successors to the trustee or trustees whose terms of office shall expire (5132).


These are subject to all the general laws of the state, so far as the same may be applicable, and the voters have all the powers and privileges conferred upon graded school districts (Act 176, 1891).

Challenging of Voters.

BY WHOM CHALLENGED. When a person who is supposed to be unqualified to vote on any question which shall come before the voters district meeting, offers to vote, his vote may be challenged by any legal voter present; and it is the duty of the chairman to require such person to take his oath that he is legally qualified. If such person refuses to take the oath, his vote is rejected. A person who takes a false oath, is deemed guilty of perjury and may be tried and punished according to the law for such an offense.

WHEN NOT VOTING BY BALLOT. When any question is taken in any other manner than by ballot, a challenge immediately after the vote has been taken shall be deemed to be made when offering to vote, and treated in the same manner (5050).

Disorderly Conduct.

TREATMENT OF OFFENDER. If, at any district meeting, any person conducts himself in a disorderly manner and, after notice from the moderator or person presiding, persists therein, the moderator or person presiding may order him to withdraw from the meeting and, on his refusal, may order any constable or other persons to take him into custody until the meeting shall be adjourned.

REFUSAL TO WITHDRAW. Any person who refuses to withdraw from such meeting on being so ordered, and also any person who wilfully disturbs such meeting by rude and indecent behavior, or by profane or indecent discourse, or in any other way makes a disturbance, shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not less than two nor more than fifty dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding thirty days; and any justice of the peace, recorder, or police justice of the township, ward, or city where such offense is committed, shall have jurisdiction to try and determine the same (5051).