A coalition of education groups is suing the state over a $2.5 million appropriation of tax dollars for private schools.
The line item approved last spring for this year’s School Aid budget allows private and parochial schools to seek reimbursement for certain expenses incurred this school year. Lawyers say the Legislature’s move violates the Michigan constitution’s prohibition on public funds for private schools.
“The Michigan constitution bans public resources for direct or indirect aid to maintain any private non-denomination or any nonpublic schools,” said Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators.
Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2000 ballot initiative that would have allowed the state to offer students vouchers toward private school tuition. Yet giving tax dollars over to private schools amounts to a “backdoor” method of implementing such a scheme. This year, lawmakers allocated $2.5 million – next year, they could increase it to $25 million, if they so chose, and so on.
MEA is a longtime member of the Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Aside from asking for a long-term ruling against this kind of public aid for private schools, lawyers are seeking a preliminary injunction to block state funding from being paid out to private schools pending a full legal review of arguments.