No State Aid in Michigan for Private Schools
Religious and private schools take it on the chin once again.
The Detroit News is reporting that Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens has decided that the State of Michigan cannot give public tax dollars to religious or non-religious private schools who are forced to comply with state mandated non-educational regulations. She believes it violates Michigan’s state constitution.
It all started back in 2016 when some in the Michigan House of Representatives believed that if we are going to mandate schools in Michigan to comply which certain non-educational regulations then we should help religious and non-religious private schools with the cost just as we do for public schools.
According to the article Judge Stephens rejected the state’s argument that the money that would be given to these schools was not for educational purposes but rather health, safety and welfare purposes, she stated providing money to offset compliance costs:
supports the employment of nonpublic school employees” and cedes a “significant degree of control” to private schools — unlike other allowable expenses such as “shared-time” aid for public schools that enroll private students in non-core elective classes
I have a concern that the state gives our money to public schools, outside of normal budgeting, to comply with the regulations, some good some bad, which they mandate. Due to that the question for me is why not do the same for these religious and non-religious private schools?
That being said, if the state of Michigan would not give public schools our taxpayer dollars outside of regular funding to pay for their mandates then I would say the religious and non-religious private schools would not have a claim for support.
There are some proponents of funding these mandates that truly believe that these appropriations by our elected officials are legally sound due to the fact that the wording in the budget allotments specifies the private school funding is for purposes “noninstructional in character” and for “ensuring the health, safety and welfare” of students.
We then have a University of Michigan law professor who teaches First Amendment law, Len Niehoff who was quoted in the article stating:
If the Immaculate Heart of Mary could prove that the state law was motivated by an intent to discriminate against Catholic schools, then this would indeed be problematic under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment…But the school faces serious challenges here. There are legitimate reasons for the government to decide it does not want to fund private schools. And many judges would hesitate to try to read the minds of thousands and thousands of Michigan voters, guessing as to whether they voted out of anti-Catholic bias or for other reasons altogether.
How about all of you, many of whom pay school taxes, do you believe if the state of Michigan is going to mandate non-educational regulations and fund public schools outside of normal funding to adhere to them why not religious and non-religious private schools?