MASB Joins Lawsuit to Stop State From Spending Public Funds on Private Schools

John Tramontana

By John Tramontana, MASB Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, March 22, 2017

It may be just a drop in the bucket when it comes to overall school funding dollars, but any amount of public money to private schools is too much. MASB joined with other public education and parent groups to sue the state and Gov. Rick Snyder over the $2.5 million line item in the state budget that would reimburse private schools for state mandates.

“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.”

Michigan’s Constitution clearly states that “no monies or property shall be appropriated or paid to 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.”

“The Governor himself acknowledged last year when he signed the budget that there are ‘legal issues’ with this appropriation, and he was absolutely correct,” said MASA Executive Director Chris Wigent. “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.”

Both Wotruba and Wigent were joined by Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice, Ph.D., concerned parents, the ACLU of Michigan, nearly a dozen education groups and attorneys to announce the lawsuit Tuesday in Lansing.

“This is the camel’s nose under the tent,” said Rice during the press conference. “This coalition today, of which I’m honored to be a part, recognizes it as such. The camel’s nose isn’t coming under the tent. If it comes under the tent (today), tomorrow it will be the camel under the tent. Not today, not on our watch, not in this state.”

The complaint was filed Tuesday afternoon in the Court of Claims. The group will also file a preliminary injunction later this week to prevent the state from releasing funds to 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, Michigan Parents for Schools, 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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