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Politics & Government

Snyder asks MI Supreme Court’s advice on payments to private schools

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(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
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The seal of the Michigan Supreme Court

Governor Rick Snyder has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to offer an opinion on whether it’s ever possible for the state to give money to a private or parochial school.

There’s a question over a $2.5 million budget in the new state budget. It’s set aside to reimburse private and religious schools for immunization reports, safety drills, and other state mandates that are not related to curriculum.

The Michigan Constitution has a very broad ban on direct or indirect state financial assistance to private or religious schools. If the state gets it wrong, it could wind up on the losing end of a lawsuit filed by groups claiming the payments divert public funds to private schools.

But the schools say they can be reimbursed for state mandates that are not related to curriculum.

So Governor Snyder asked the state Supreme Court for an opinion on whether the budget provision is legal.

From Snyder’s letter addressed to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young:

“The Michigan Supreme Court’s prompt resolution of important constitutional questions through advisory opinions greatly assists the people of Michigan by avoiding the proliferation of state and federal lawsuits on the same question and by providing the necessary constitutional certainty before moving forward with the implementation of the law,”

The governor is hoping for an answer before the new budget year starts in October. But, the court doesn’t have to give an opinion, and, if it does, the governor is still not bound to follow it.