KEY NEWS & DOCUMENTS:
Court Blocks State from Using Public Funds for Private Schools
Update (8/15/17): A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals has denied the State of Michigan’s request to appeal an injunction by the Michigan Court of Claims barring the state from using taxpayer dollars for private schools in direct contravention of the Michigan Constitution.
An injunction prohibiting the state from allotting public money for private schools has been issued by the Michigan Court of Claims following a request from the ACLU of Michigan, public education leaders and parent groups from across Michigan.
"We are pleased with the court’s decision to extend an injunction to prevent the state from diverting $2.5 million in tax dollars to private schools," said Dan Korobkin, Deputy Legal Director for the ACLU of Michigan. "Our constitution could not be clearer on this issue: public money should only be spent on public schools. The decision today sends a clear message that lawmakers cannot use our public school dollars to fund private interests."
Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens' opinion follows a request by the plaintiffs in CAP v. Michigan to extend a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from implementing a law passed by the legislature last year that would divert $2.5 million in public funding to private schools. Without the injunction, the state was scheduled to distribute the funds by August 15.
“The Michigan Constitution draws a clear line between public funding and private schools,” said Jeff Donahue, legal counsel for the Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid (CAP), the first-named plantiff in the case. “We are pleased that the Court of Claims extended the injunction, and we will continue to work through this litigation to ensure public money is only spent in public classrooms.”
Judge Stephens issued a temporary injunction at a hearing on July 5 and asked for additional briefing to determine whether a recent Supreme Court decision impacted the case. Her more recent ruling means that the injunction will remain in place indefinitely while the litigation proceeds.
"The opinion issued by the Court of Claims is a big step in ensuring that every child has the right to an excellent public school education," said Wytrice Harris, Organizer and the Communications Lead of 428Forward, a citywide education organizing network in Detroit and one of the plaintiffs in the case. "Local public schools have seen tremendous cuts that have had a direct impact in the classroom and every dollar that is diverted is a dollar lost to build a brighter future for our students. Today's decision will help ensure that public funds stay in public schools to set students up for long-term success."
Michigan’s Constitution clearly states the use of public funds for private schools is prohibited:
Excerpt from Article VIII § 2
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.
"Today marked a victory for our public schools and the students who learn in them, and we will not relent," said Don Wotruba, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of School Boards. "Public funds should be spent solely on public schools. We will continue to work on this issue until a decision is made once and for all to uphold our constitution."
In addition to the ACLU, 482Forward, CAP and the Michigan Association of School Boards, the following groups are plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit: Michigan Parents for Schools, Michigan Association of School Administrators, 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.