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Public Education Leaders, Parent Groups to Sue State and Gov. Snyder to Protect Public Schools

LANSING, Mich. – Public education leaders and parent groups from across Michigan will today file a lawsuit to prevent the state and Gov. Rick Snyder from funding private schools with public money. The lawsuit stems from a $2.5 million line item in the state budget that reimburses private institutions for state mandates.

“MASA is a partner in this lawsuit because the governor’s budget item crosses a very clear line: It is unconstitutional to use public dollars for private schools,” said MASA Executive Director Chris Wigent. “The governor himself acknowledged last year when he signed the budget that there are ‘legal issues’ with this appropriation, and he was absolutely correct. Our state constitution specifically bans this type of budget action, and we simply cannot allow it. Doing so would be a disservice to public education and public schools all across Michigan.”

Michigan’s Constitution clearly states the use of public funds for private institutions 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.

“Public funds of any kind are not meant to be spent on a student’s private education,” said MASB Executive Director Don Wotruba. “It is unconscionable that our legislature would think it appropriate to go against Michigan’s Constitution, particularly as our local public schools continue to make cuts that impact our classrooms. This is nothing more than a gateway to vouchers and the voters in this state have already resoundingly rejected that plan.”

The groups will also file a preliminary injunction to immediately halt and prevent the use of public dollars being spent on private schools until the lawsuit is resolved.

The following groups have signed on as plaintiffs to the lawsuit: 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, MIPFS, 482Foward, Middle Cites Education Association, Kalamazoo Public Schools, the Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

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