Editor’s Note: Keep private school funds in budget

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

The Legislature last week passed its 2017 K-12 budget, which got a boost to nearly $12.1 billion. It’s up $150 million and that translates into a per-pupil funding increase between $60-$120 for schools, depending on the district.

Yet public school administrators and others in the school establishment are up in arms over a relatively small line item.

For the first time in Michigan, private schools will see funding to help them cover some state mandates, such as required safety drills and other health regulations. The budget includes $2.5 million, which was scaled down from the $5 million appropriation originally approved by the Senate. And the money will come from the general fund — not the School Aid Fund. Private schools, along with public schools, will receive additional state funding for school safety grants and lead testing.

Public school unions and administrators have fought hard against the private funding, but it only seems fair for the state to cover a portion of these mandated expenses. Other states, such as New York and Ohio, have included similar funding for private schools for a few years, so it’s not unprecedented for states to cover these costs. Michigan’s constitution does block state funding for private and parochial schools, but this money would be used only to cover state mandates — not instruction.

Gov. Rick Snyder is getting heavy pressure from the public school community and now the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan to veto this line item. “Michigan cannot afford a funding scheme that would undermine public school education and further disadvantage our kids,” states the ACLU.

This funding is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall budget. Private schools do a good service and deserve this token of appreciation.