Editor’s Note: Private school aid isn’t nixed, yet

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not issue the advisory opinion on private school aid requested by Gov. Rick Snyder in July. Following the Legislature’s approval of $2.5 million in the 2017 budget to reimburse private schools for state health and safety mandates, the governor asked the state’s high court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the appropriation.

While the court’s inaction keeps the funding alive for now, it’s not exactly a victory for private school proponents. You can bet that groups opposed to the private school funding are already drafting lawsuits to fight the line item.

Since it was the first time the state included the funding in the budget, it’s a big deal and has consequently garnered significant push back from teacher unions and the ACLU of Michigan, among others.

New York and Ohio offer private schools reimbursement for similar mandates. And like Michigan, New York has a Blaine Amendment blocking public funding for parochial schools. But Michigan’s constitutional amendment goes much further, which makes the outcome of this debate look doubtful for nonpublic schools.

That’s a shame, given some of the developments in other states. Just last week, Nevada’s expansive education savings account program survived a court challenge, allowing thousands of families access to the school of their choice — including a private school.

This legal fight is far from over in Michigan. Given the restrictive nature of the state constitution, it’s probably time for a broader conversation in the state about opening avenues to true school choice.