Lawsuit challenges public funding for private schools

May 11, 2017

A case against the state of Michigan will determine whether tax dollars can be used to support private schools.

At stake is a two-and-a-half million dollar allocation in the state budget.

The money is intended to reimburse private schools for expenses accrued from state mandated requirements.

Dan Korobkin is the Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan, which is a plaintiff and counsel on the case.  He said the allocation is an attempt to divert tax dollars to private schools.

“It’s a slippery slope to a situation where private schools can just use public money to educate the kids. That’s a voucher system! And we’ve seen in other states when you instate a voucher system the people who are first to suffer and suffer the most it’s the kids in the public schools.”

The Michigan constitution includes a line stating that no public money can directly or indirectly go to fund private, denominational, or nonpublic schools.

In a court filing on April 27th, the state argued that a literal interpretation of that law would limit the state from providing health and safety services to nonpublic students.

Korobkin said that argument doesn’t make sense.

“That’s a laughable argument. This is a case about the legislature directly sending money to private schools. That’s what is prohibited by the Michigan constitution and the fact that it happens to be from many different types of expenses is really irrelevant”

Korobkin said the ACLU is hoping for a quick decision from the courts, because the funding is expected to be released to private schools over the summer.

The Governor’s office declined to comment on the case, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.

The next hearing is scheduled for May 22.