June 25, 2019

DETROIT – Today the Michigan Supreme Court announced that it would hear the appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and a coalition of public education leaders and parent groups challenging the Michigan law that provides public funds to private schools. 

"Not only is this attempt to fund parochial and private schools unconstitutional, it diverts tax dollars from the public schools they're intended to fund at precisely the time when our public schools need resources the most," said Dan Korobkin, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Michigan.  
 
The ACLU and its coalition partners originally filed the lawsuit in March 2017 to prevent the state from diverting $5 million in public tax dollars to private schools.  In April 2018, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens ruled that the payments are unconstitutional.  

However, in October the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed that decision, ruling by a vote of 2 – 1 that the state can use public tax money to fund private schools in certain circumstances. The ACLU coalition then asked the Michigan Supreme Court to take the case. Today the Supreme Court agreed to do so. 

“We are asking the Michigan Supreme Court to reinstate Judge Stephens’ ruling because our constitution could not be clearer on this issue: public money should only be spent on public schools,” said Korobkin. 

Excerpt from Article VIII § 2 of the Michigan Constitution:                  

No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students. 

The ACLU of Michigan is representing two community groups, Michigan Parents for Schools and 482Forward, in the lawsuit. The appeal was also filed by the Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan School Business Officials, Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, Middle Cites Education Association, and the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

The case will be argued in the Supreme Court term that begins this fall. 

Follow the ACLU’s website, www.aclumich.org, for updates as the Michigan Supreme Court hears and decides this case.  

ACLU statement on today’s decision to take up the case: https://www.aclumich.org/en/press-releases/michigan-supreme-court-will-hear-aclu-challenge-public-funding-private-schools

Read the ACLU and coalition’s appeal, and for more case background: https://www.aclumich.org/en/press-releases/aclu-education-leaders-and-parent-groups-file-appeal-asking-michigan-supreme-court 

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