Michigan Supreme Court won't give view on private school aid, funding remains in effect

By Ed White
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court said Wednesday it won't give an opinion on the legality of sending $2.5 million in public money to private schools.

The court turned down a request from Gov. Rick Snyder, who sought the court's view in July when he signed the budget for the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

"We are not persuaded that granting the request would be an appropriate exercise of the court's discretion," the justices said in a three-sentence order.

The money, earmarked by Republicans who control the Legislature, would help private schools meet the cost of complying with state rules, such as employee background checks, immunizations and safety requirements. Critics say it violates the Michigan Constitution.

Public school advocates still can challenge the spending with a lawsuit - and the issue could land again at the state's top court that way.

"The private school funding will remain in effect unless overturned by a court," said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a school-choice advocacy group.

Two groups that represent public school boards and school administrators were disappointed by the Supreme Court's order.

"It would have been logical and prudent for the court to issue an opinion now," the groups said.

Before taking a pass, the court asked the attorney general's office to file legal arguments on both sides of the issue.

In one filing, Deputy Solicitor General B. Eric Restuccia said the $2.5 million violated the state constitution, which says lawmakers cannot spend public money "directly or indirectly" on private schools.

Restuccia also was opposed to the Supreme Court giving an "advisory" opinion as requested by the Republican governor. He said the opinion would not serve as a formal decision by the court and could cause confusion in lower courts.

In the other filing, Attorney General Bill Schuette said there's nothing illegal about reimbursing private schools because the money is related to health and safety, not classroom instruction.

Published: Fri, Oct 07, 2016