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Catholic parents, GOP lawmakers want to challenge ban on money for private schools

Flickr User Peter Reed

The Michigan Court of Appeals has put a lawsuit regarding state money for private schools on hold while it decides who can be part of it.

The court will decide whether a group of Republican lawmakers and Catholic school parents can challenge Michigan’s ban on public money for private schools. And they want to join the lawsuit as defendants, not plaintiffs.

The group of parents and GOP legislators want to be allowed to argue the ban in the Michigan Constitution on direct or indirect public support for private or religious schools violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

That side argument has delayed a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and public school officials against a new state budget provision that sets aside $2.5 million to reimburse private schools for state-mandated health and safety requirements.

Attorney John Bursch says the state can’t challenge Michigan Constitution, but his group can.

“Our position is just that we need to allow these monies to flow to private schools to support safety measures that the state imposes on them,” he said. “Our goal isn’t any bigger than that.”

But ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin says allowing the challenge poses a threat to public school funding.

“Our goal is to make sure that public schools get the resources they deserve,” he said, “so that all kids, regardless of their background, regardless of where they’re coming from have an opportunity to get a good education.”

The next step is for a Court of Claims judge to decide by July 1 whether to continue to hold or to release money to private schools to pay for the state mandates.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.