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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
November 13, 2020
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • Oral Arguments in State Supreme Court Urge Equal Protection for Nonpublic School Students
 
  Oral Arguments in State Supreme Court Urge Equal Protection for Nonpublic School Students  
 
The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week regarding a state policy supported by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) to reimburse nonpublic schools for dozens of state-mandated expenses that include protections for safe water, lock-down training and immunization records, among others. At issue is whether or not Article 8, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution (known as the "Blaine Amendment") approved at the ballot in 1970 allows for the state to reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses unrelated to education, instruction or curriculum. MCC released the following statement with regards to the arguments:

"[This week's] arguments focus on a simple premise: does the state have the responsibility to ensure a safe classroom for all school-age children in Michigan? We do not believe the state-aid limitations enacted at the ballot in 1970 were intended to prevent nonpublic school students from being treated differently than their public school counterparts in terms of the safety of a school building. Further, it is highly unlikely that voters sought to deny reimbursements for safety grants or lockdown drill training, safe water to drink, or measures to fight a pandemic. Our position is that all students deserve equal treatment in terms of health and safety protections, regardless of whether they attend a public or nonpublic school."

Although $5.25 million has already been appropriated by the Michigan Legislature to reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses related to state mandates, the funds have not been disbursed as numerous public-school advocacy groups have litigated the policy since it was signed into law in 2016. While the Court of Claims initially ruled against the appropriation, MCC was pleased the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the decision, leading to this week's arguments before the State Supreme Court. The Office of Attorney General, which is obligated to provide legal counsel for the Legislature and the laws it passes, has instead joined plaintiffs in opposition to the appropriation and argued against the State paying for the cost of safety regulations in nonpublic schools, as it does for public schools.

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Michigan Catholic Conference, 510 South Capitol Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48933 Michigan Catholic Conference: The Official Public Policy Voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan Phone: (517) 372-9310, Fax: (517) 372-3940, publicpolicy@micatholic.org