Gov. Whitmer, GOP clash on Michigan ban on public funds for private schools

Private school students

Religious and non-public school groups in late December asked the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down the 1970 state constitutional amendment prohibiting taxpayer funding for private schools, arguing it was motivated by anti-Catholic bias and violates the free exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution. (Shutterstock photo)

LANSING – What began as a partisan fight over modest school reimbursements may morph into a major battle over Michigan’s ban on public funding for private education.

And the state’s highest court this year could decide the case that is being closely watched nationwide by all sides of the schools of choice debate.

Religious and non-public school groups in late December asked the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down the 1970 state constitutional amendment prohibiting taxpayer funding for private schools, arguing it was motivated by anti-Catholic bias and violates the free exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The ban “covertly suppresses particular religious beliefs,” attorneys for the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools wrote in a court filing. “There is no compelling state interest to justify its prohibition against secular education to religious schools.”

The ban applies to all private schools, and supporters say even small funding opens the door to the kind of school voucher programs Michigan voters rejected in 2000 despite an aggressive campaign backed by Betsy DeVos, who now serves as U.S. secretary of education. 

“Michigan voters keep reaffirming that they want public tax dollars to go exclusively to public schools,” said Dan Korobkin, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, a plaintiff in the case. He called arguments against the state constitution a “side issue” in a lawsuit over specific spending plans.

There’s no reason why states should not be able to say we're dedicated to public education, so we're going to use tax dollars for public schools," Korobkin said. “And that's all that Michigan is doing here.”

In dispute is $5.25 million appropriated by Michigan's Republican-led Legislature between 2016 and 2018 but never spent amid the ongoing legal fight. GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder signed off on the funding but asked the Michigan Supreme Court to determine whether it was legal, which justices initially declined to do.

On its face, the funding was designed to reimburse private schools for the cost of complying with state requirements such as fire and tornado drills, teacher certifications, bus and building inspections, student immunizations and more. Supporters say it’s legal because the money would support student health, safety and welfare, not their actual education. 

But public school groups called it a slippery slope and sued, temporarily blocking the spending. The Michigan Supreme Court last June agreed to consider the case, and a separate U.S. Supreme Court ruling provided a path for private school advocates to challenge the state’s 50-year-old ban on public funding.

Former state Rep. Tim Kelly, a Saginaw Township Republican who championed the funding in the Michigan Legislature, said his larger goal was to promote “school choice” by allowing public funding to flow to private schools. The reimbursements were just a mechanism to force the debate, he acknowledged. (Courtesy photo)

“That’s where we always wanted it to be in the first place,” said former state Rep. Tim Kelly, a Saginaw Township Republican who championed the funding in the Michigan Legislature. 

His larger goal was to promote “school choice” by allowing public funding to flow to private schools, Kelly told Bridge Magazine. The reimbursements were just a mechanism to force the debate, he acknowledged. 

“It’s throwing everything you can at the wall until something sticks,” Kelly said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is fighting the private school spending and contends most of the reimbursement money approved by her GOP predecessor was illegal. The Michigan Constitution allows state repayment for transportation-related costs, but nothing else, her administration argued in a court filing.

“The people spoke in no uncertain terms,” attorneys for Whitmer and state Superintendent Michael Rice wrote, referring to the 1970 amendment approved by voters. 

“By appropriating public funds to reimburse nonpublic schools for their costs in complying with the health, safety, or welfare mandates, [the spending plan] impermissibly aids nonpublic schools and supports student attendance and employment of staff at nonpublic schools.”

‘A line in the sand’

The Democratic governor became a named defendant in the case when she took office last year. In early December, she effectively reversed the state's position by primarily siding with plaintiffs, prompting a furious response from GOP lawmakers who said her legal shift “smacks of partisan politics.”

Citing an “adversarial void” in the case, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, House Speaker Lee Chatfield and 35 others GOP lawmakers stepped in to defend their spending plan in a Dec. 23 filing with the state Supreme Court, arguing the money would not support classroom instruction and is therefore not barred. 

"Plaintiffs — and apparently now Defendants — would have this Court believe that the Legislature lacks authority to appropriate funds for the health, safety, and welfare of more than 100,000 students attending nearly 650 nonpublic schools throughout Michigan, merely because the private schools may derive some incidental benefit from the appropriation," attorneys for the GOP lawmakers wrote. 

The funding would have provided relatively small sums to the hundreds of private schools that could have qualified. 

St. Mary School Westphalia, for instance, estimated it would get $7,405 in state reimbursements for the 2016-17 school year, less than 1 percent of its $1.2 million operating budget, according to court documents. Grand Rapids Christian Schools, which had a $23.78 million budget, planned to request $104,150 in reimbursements that year.

“Frankly, this is a line in the sand for public schools,” said Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators. (Courtesy photo)

Nonetheless, sending the funds to private schools would “exacerbate the chronic underfunding of public schools,” according to a national coalition including the Southern Poverty Law Center that has weighed in on the Michigan case. 

"Whether it was $1 million or $20 million, it just opens the door for a clear violation of the constitution," said Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, one of the groups that sued.  “Frankly, this is a line in the sand for public schools,” he told Bridge. 

The Michigan Constitution prohibits direct or indirect state funding to maintain “any private, denominational or other nonpublic” school. The state Supreme Court upheld the ban in 1971 but ruled that it does not prohibit public funding for shared-time programs, drivers training or general “health and safety services” that benefit private school students. 

“We don't feel there's any chance that would be overturned,” Wigent said. 

National fight

More than 30 states have some form of a ban on public funding for private schools, but many are now facing legal challenges from religious organizations and politically conservative groups. 

The U.S. Supreme Court this month is set to hear oral arguments in a Montana case challenging that state’s ban on funding for “for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

The Montana Supreme Court used that ban to invalidate a state program offering tax credits to individuals that donate to groups providing tuition scholarships to private school students. But plaintiffs contend the 2018 decision violates their guarantee to free exercise of religion. 

The case is the latest of its kind to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2017 ruled that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources violated free exercise rights of a religious school by rejecting its request for a playground resurfacing grant, “denying the church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.”

The Supreme Court’s “evolved” free exercise of religion doctrine means Michigan’s ban “must be re-examined,” attorneys for the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools wrote in their Dec. 23 filing.

“When offered, generally available public benefits must be provided on an equal basis to religious and non-religious recipients alike, including educational benefits to public and nonpublic schools,” they wrote. 

In agreeing to hear the case in June, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman asked plaintiffs and defendants to examine the Missouri ruling. 

That case “made it clear that you can't discriminate against schools in this regard," said Michigan Catholic Conference spokesman David Maluchnik. "There's more going on nationally, and it seems that Justice Markman wanted to be considerate of ...these other cases that are bubbling up from other states.”

But Markman noted a key distinction: Michigan’s constitutional ban applies to all non-public schools whether or not they are religious, while Missouri “expressly required the denial of state funds based on the religious classification of a putative recipient.”

That’s why the Missouri ruling should have no bearing on the Michigan case, according to Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has also reversed the position of her Republican predecessor and requested the state Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments.

Religious hostility?

The Michigan Constitution “denies funding based on the distinction between public and private entities, not on the distinction between religious or non-religious entities,” Nessel wrote in an October filing.

The Missouri case was narrowly focused and “does not dictate that Michigan must abandon its long history of protecting against the use of taxpayer money to ‘aid and maintain’ nonpublic schools,” she wrote. 

But like Missouri, Michigan’s constitutional amendment “puts a religious organization to an unconstitutional choice” of qualifying for state funding or remaining a faith-based institution, former Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch wrote in a recent court filing for Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic school in Grand Rapids. 

The 1970 amendment was based on “religious hostility,” Bursch argued. It was a response to “modest funding” for religious schools, he wrote, suggesting campaign literature and ads from the time attacked the Catholic church and schools. 

Even the name of the campaign committee — the Council Against Parochiaid –  amounted to a “religious slur” because of its reference to Catholic parishes, he wrote.

The Michigan Supreme Court should either wait to see how federal justices rule in the Montana case or “strike down” Michigan’s ban, Bursch wrote. “The Amendment singles out religious organizations and religious believers for discriminatory treatment.”

But the state court should not be in the business of trying to ascertain voter intent decades after they cast ballots, public school groups and the ACLU argued in a Tuesday response filing.

“There is no legal precedent for invalidating a provision like [the state constitution ban], neutral both on its face and in application, based solely on extrinsic evidence about what may have subjectively motivated millions of voters when they approved it nearly 50 years ago,” they wrote. 

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Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:31am

No money or any other form of State support for non-public schools.

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:36pm

Leave my tax dollars out of private schools!

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:36pm

Leave my tax dollars out of private schools!

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:33am

I hope they are successful. We need school choice to have a competitive labor force. Public education success rate is small for preparing our children.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:40am

How has "school choice" been working out so far? We've had decades of evidence to review, and it sure seems like the only people who are benefiting are charter school investors

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:45am

Public K12 dollars go everywhere to anyone for almost any reason. Charters. Quasi-private universities with enormous endowments. Consultants of all sorts. Lawyers (you have no idea). In Bloomfield Hills, the public school called the Okma IA administration opened and operated private schools in China while using public dollars to avoid Open Meetings Acts. But the idea of single public dollar going to an established

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 10:30pm

If that is true, were the officials prosecuted? I live in Michigan and I never read of this case.

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 10:42am

No prosecution so far. Unfortunately. A few school board members in some district pursuing this scam have resigned or have failed to be re-elected, but the scam goes on.

There is a similar program in Ann Arbor, enhanced to allow Chinese students to attend high school for 2 years each by creating an "exchange student only" dual-enrollment status in which the cooperating college issues F-1 visas for the the second year students for a cut of the extra revenue. See for an explanation of the usual limits on F-1 visas for foreign students in US public schools.

The Chinese parents pay $10k/year to the school district (or a district-associated foundation), and another ~$10k that the district takes a rake-off from for their students' room and board. Plus, the school district claims the full Foundation Allowance from state taxpayers, because the Michigan Department of Education allows "exchange students" to be counted as district residents, rather than specifying that only cultural exchange students (J-1 visa) should be funded by taxpayers in this fashion.

Big red
Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:56am

We do have school choice. Parents can send their kids to private schools anytime. But I don't want see my tax dollars used for their choice.
It takes resources away from our already cash strapped public school system.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 10:42am

Exactly. You want to send your kid to a private school, go ahead. Just leave tax dollars where they belong - public schools. Let’s get rid of “charter” schools too. Just a slippery way for private, for-profit operators to get public funding. And while we’re at it, we should eliminate schools of choice. This program does nothing to strengthen the lesser performing school, but gives a convenient way for good athletes to bid up their college prospects. Strong local public schools with strong state oversight will return our schools to the high standing they once were.

Sun, 02/09/2020 - 9:42am

Maybe I don't want my tax dollars going to the pockets of the corrupt teachers union. Forced funding for public education isn't even Constitutional.

Righting Wrong
Sat, 01/11/2020 - 10:39am

Private schools are not better than public schools. I taught college and my students who attended public schools always outperformed my students who attended private schools. You are merely parroting tired GOP nonsense talking points promoted by the failing private school industrial complex. Please stop your BS. I'm all for choice, but you can pay for your private school, if that is your choice. Do not continue to destroy public schools by reducing funding.

jan d
Sun, 01/26/2020 - 9:10am

This is a narrow, obviously biased, opinion, not fact. I am in favor of charter schools. The problem(s) I see with charter schools is the lack of oversight.

Ann Farnell
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 2:59pm

Check the data for private schools before you assume they are more successful than public schools. Further, private schools hire non certified teachers at very reduced wages. Privately invested schools which are for profit benefit the investors until they don't and have to fold.. You are advocating for corporate education, whether you know it or not. Corporate education is what has driven up tuition at the university level and created unpayable student loan debt. It was for profit health care that created the mess we are in with health care. It behooves us all to stop repeating the same mistakes!

Ann Farnell
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 3:14pm

Check the data for private schools before you assume they are more successful than public schools. Further, private schools hire non certified teachers at very reduced wages. Privately invested schools which are for profit benefit the investors until they don't and have to fold.. You are advocating for corporate education, whether you know it or not. Corporate education is what has driven up tuition at the university level and created unpayable student loan debt. It was for profit health care that created the mess we are in with health care. It behooves us all to stop repeating the same mistakes!

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:55am

Separation of church and state (funding). I may be wrong, but I think it's in the U.S. Constitution. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 12:10pm

I agree with this. So much has been attempted by the feds, and lately the state, to work around this part of our constitution.

Sun, 01/12/2020 - 9:17pm

George, the phrase "separation of church and state" is NOT in the Constitution. It was first used in the 1600's, to the best of my knowledge, but the most commonly cited use is in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to a religious group who felt they were not enjoying the same freedoms as other religious denominations under their state's constitution. Jefferson stated "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” The intent of the First Amendment was that the government should not interfere with religious practice or support any religion over another, and said it nothing about funding. Early immigrants to this country were seeking religious freedom in the sense of not wanting to live in a country where the government dictated to people what church they should belong to. I suspect they would never in their wildest dreams have imagined the many ways in which the First Amendment would be interpreted and misinterpreted over the next 200+ years.

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:09pm

Go ahead and show us where that is.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:15am

Public tax money should go to public schools, period!

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:36am

60 years ago my parents sent us to Catholic schools. My high school was $500 dollars a year for the four of us. Now it is approximately $5000 each. If you choose a private school you should pay for it. PERIOD. You choose a private college you pay for it. Love to hear your comments. R.L.

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 5:37pm

Our Federal government, in their push for fairness, makes Pell Grants and guaranteed student loans available to all admitted college students at ALL accredited public and private colleges and universities. One college in Michigan does not accept such government-provided student aid, but that is its privilege as an institution. One college major, studying for ordination in any religion, cannot be paid for using Federal money.

Why should Michigan, or any state, disqualify K-12 schools from government programs or funding, or keep religious organizations / congregations from opening a charter school that admits all applicants equitably without racial or disability-based discrimination meets state curriculum guidelines, administers state-approved standardized tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11, and meets the same academic performance and financial transparency rules as traditional public school districts do? What's so different about schools for younger students vs. those for young adults? What would be so awful about a charter school that added an optional religious education class at the beginning or end of the school day?

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:46am

establishe Catholic school is a "line in the sand." Please. The hypocrisy here is stuning.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:51am

What’s good for the goose is unfortunately also good for the gander.
Let’s say that we expanded public funding for private schools. Would it include all private schools? Would it include schools whose mission includes teaching atheism? Fascism? Satanism? Communism? Buddhism? Confucianism? Hinduism? Islamism? Jains? Sikhism? Shintoism? Spiritualism? Taoism? Unitarianism? Zoroastrianism? Wiccanism? Satanism? Some other “ism” that has a school?
If we taxpayers fund one “ism” flavor (e.g. Roman Catholicism schools) we must fund all flavors, no?
The same dilemma applies to prayer in public schools, even student led prayer. For example, a catholic student in a public school leads a prayer to Mother Mary. Allow that, and the Satanist student must be allowed to lead a prayer to Lucifer.
These are black and white issues, not gray or slippery slope issues. Tax dollars should never be used to fund any private school and that includes private charter schools.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 9:57am

Taxpayer funds are for public schools. Private schools charge tuition, that should pay for their needs.

Betsy Calhoun
Fri, 01/10/2020 - 11:05am

The ban “covertly suppresses particular religious beliefs,” attorneys for the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools wrote in a court filing. Of course they mean "particular religious beliefs" such as the rejection of evolution and birth control, and if it's a fundamentalist school, climate change. It does no one any good to encourage a larger science-rejecting state populace.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 11:18am

It's not discrimination. It's your choice to send your children to a private school but it's our choice to not fund that, whether it's a Montessori or Sylvan or religious. If you want a private school then fund it privately. Stop trying to grab public monies for your private ventures. I would venture a guess that the lawsuit is mostly funded by larger private corporations looking to raise the salaries of their executives with our tax dollars. Enough already with the corporate welfare.

Sat, 01/11/2020 - 10:27am

I agree that it's a decision of parents whether their children will attend public schools or private schools. It's also a question of whether the parents can afford the cost of private school tuition. Maybe, the parents should not be required to pay the cost of public school (through property tax) if they send their children to private school. Maybe retirees, and others, who have no children in public schools, should not have to pay property tax that supports public schools?

Bravo Marco
Mon, 01/13/2020 - 10:39am

Sarcasm. You are wrong. Otherwise people who don't support war should not have to pay for the military. Government is not a cafeteria!

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 11:18am

The governor could solve the problem by diverting higher education dollars to public schools both public and private, We all know the saying that you have learn to walk before you can run and this applies to education and specifically pre-K. Think about how we pay a head start teacher $17 /hour and Lou Ann Simon millions of dollars after the development of a child has baseball determined. While the legislature is at it they should take the tax exemption status away from higher education to help struggling cities.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 11:46am

Public funds should NOT be used to fund private education, period. With the inadequate funding of public education, how would it help public education to strain the system by funding private education rather than using those funds to improve public education? All government funding should be geared to improving the legitimate goal of providing the best public education possible to students. Furthermore, private and charter schools do not necessarily have to fulfill the same requirements that public schools do. If a family chooses to educate their children through private schools, they should pay for it through their private funds. And, yes, they should continue to pay taxes to support public schools. As a citizen, my tax dollars support many public programs that I may never use but still pay for as my obligation as a citizen.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 12:08pm

Pretty simple to solve.. put it to the voters again. Bypass the politicians, since they don't listen to us anyway.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 1:41pm

Yes. Let them change the MICHIGAN CONSTITUTION. They don't want to; they just want to ignore it. The DeVos family (who will, of course, profit from this change) has been trying for years.

They're afraid of the Constitutional route because they know they will lose. So it's the backdoor, myths, lies, etc. The same reason they are fighting for their gerrymander - can't win? Cheat.

Sat, 01/11/2020 - 12:58pm

Rick as you've been repetely asked, where is your evidence that the DeVos family profited from charter schools? Or are you just that jealous that through the DeVos' generousity GR has benefited from their being here than from you and your ilk so you continue this nonsense spew? Maybe you can find a home where no super wealthy people have existed to taint it? How about Hamtramack?, Alpena? or Baldwin? or some other dying place can bring you happiness?

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:47pm

Matt, you make the world a worse place. Anyway, DeVos has lots of investment in private education:

We know she makes money of private colleges and private pre-schools. S
She also has millions opaque holdings in "education". Given the utter lack of transparency, we can't say with 100% certainty that she has benefitted off of primary educator charter schools, her complete lack of scruples, her championing of school choice, and her investment at every other level of education makes it a safe bet.

Also, billionaire philathropists so stole their money from the working class deserve no congratulations for returning a fraction of it in exchange for good press and political power.

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 8:37am

Still got your computer privileges at the homeless shelter I see. Pretty skimpy that you have to drag down to American Progress to find something negative to say about Betsy DeVos. Like going to JBS to get facts on Obama, How about a real outlet?

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 12:51pm

I hate Neera and CAP more than you ever could, but it was a convenient (and more importantly, factually sourced) collection of her relevant investments. I'm sorry that you quibble with the source instead of the data that shows you to be defending a crook with huge conflicts of interests. But hey, what do I know? I'm just the only guy in the homeless shelter with a doctorate, you deeply stupid ghoul

Seth Phillips
Fri, 01/10/2020 - 12:53pm

My Mother, Harriett Phillips, was the head of Citizens to Advance Public Education and the Council Against Parochiad, the groups that put this language into the Constitution in 1970. It had nothing to do with being anti-Catholic. It was about protecting public money for public schools at a time when the private school universe, which was mostly Catholic schools, wanted to get tax dollars to support schools they didn't want to pay for themselves. My Mother passed away last year but it would be a terrible personal blow to her memory to overturn this on such a specious argument. I was there and heard and read all the horrible things these supposedly holy people had to say about my Mother at the time. It was most unCatholic I can assure you. In addition to all the hate messages we received at home, they organized groups of thugs to disrupt her meetings and destroy campaign materials. Now they claim holier than thou status? What hypocrites. They still want your tax money to pay for their private schools which will further erode public education.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 3:30pm

The Federal GI Bill and Education Programs allow eligible current and veterans to attend Public or Private/Catholic Universities.

Windsor Canada allows a student to fully choose between a Public or Catholic K-12 School.

At a minimum, parents that send students to Private /Catholic Schools should get some form of Michigan Prop Tax break that funds schools. Also, Seniors who pay Property Taxes and have never sent a child to public schools should be exempt from paying Property Taxes for public schools.

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 4:22pm

Strange how in our higher ed (and Preschool) system there is no distinguishing between whether government aid goes to students going to private or public institutions, but the usual suspects go hyperbolic at the thought that any government funds going to nonunionized schools between K and 12th. Also, funny when considering that our higher Ed institutions attract students from the entire world, willingly paying super high tutition, while our K-12 unionized schools are subpar internationally (except for what they spend). Why the fear that some poor family might choose a nonpublic school instead of the local unionized school, are you that insecure? Wouldn't you folks want to get rid of these hayseed deplorables anyway?

middle of the mit
Sun, 01/12/2020 - 1:24am

So now Matt is praising our higher institutions of learning as opposed to calling them ...what is it?

Ohh that is right!

Leftist organizations designed to propagate leftist ideals that no right minded conservative would ever send their kid to!

Also....they hate Free Speech!

And they are overfunded because of Government funding and the leftist and elitist professors they employ!



That has got to hurt!!

Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:16pm

MOM Where did this, …. (what ever your point is?) appear is my comment(s) ? While Higher Ed. may have problems, I'm unable to make sense of your thinking or point.

jane thomas
Sat, 01/11/2020 - 5:55pm

I hope Whitmer wins this debate. There is no excuse for private schools to get public money for three reasons: (1) Most private schools charge tuition fees, which should cover their expenses; Even if they do not, a school that, by definition, omits students who can't afford a school with tuition should not get public tax money; (2) Private schools have no public supervision on who will and won't be admitted, nor on curriculum; (3) Private schools feeding into the public tax money for public schools would take away a lot of that money that supports the public schools, along with the thousands of children who attend them. Allowing private schools to raid taxes for themselves is simply unfair and undemocratic.

Rick Luczak Bay City
Sat, 01/11/2020 - 8:35pm

the prohibition is purely political and violates the equal protection clause and concept of the US constitution. It is purely partisan to judge this matter based on the financial impact to public schools, which aren't doing such a good job anyway. Didja ever read section 8 of the MichCon? The first statement says that religion is essential to good government. So, what? It's essential but we won't support it? Pure partisan politics.

Ann Farnell
Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:16am

John: There is an acute shortage of certified and competent teachers and other school personnel in Michigan as well as nation wide. School choice does not and has not increased competition although that was the original bunk claim.

Ann Farnell
Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:16am

John: There is an acute shortage of certified and competent teachers and other school personnel in Michigan as well as nation wide. School choice does not and has not increased competition although that was the original bunk claim.

Ann Farnell
Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:30am

Matt: Obviously you have some anti- union bias. Are you in education? Do you teach? What business is it of yours if the teaching work force has organized itself to try to improve it’s rights to fair employment? It seems to me you have little to gripe about when teachers as a profession are not highly paid...certainly not in relation to their education and teachers perform duties above and beyond their pay grade, so to speak. And there is an intense shortage of teachers, largely because of public and political abuse dating back to the Reagan administration.

Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:24pm

No I'm with several leftwing notables (FDR for starters) that believe public sector unions have no place in and are destructive force in our society. Our public Ed system exhibit no. 1. Leading the world in spending, giving crappy results!

Ann Farnell
Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:28pm

Attributing the problems of education to unions acts as blinders to the enormous effort it takes to educate a diverse population spread across fifty states, which also includes schools on over 600 military bases with a highly mobile population of kids, speaking native languages which are global with a curriculum that is agreed upon by over 1000 school districts. With all due respect to FDR, my favorite president to read about, the rationale that because public sector employees are receiving tax payer salaries, are too necessary and would be too disruptive to the smooth operation of the public good is obviously no longer acceptable given police, fire departments, federal workers, hospital workers are all unionized. The notion that teachers are professionals therefore, similar to management, is belied by the organizational structure of schools which even architecturally separates principals and veeps from the classroom teacher. Your argument was put to rest in the early sixties. There is no going back.

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 8:45am

Ann you make the case for decentralized education. The (one of) biggest opponent are the teacher's unions because decentralization and individualization of it's delivery doesn't fit their power model and as has been shown it's not about the kids!

Ann Farnell
Tue, 01/14/2020 - 4:51pm

Matt: I don’t make that case at all.

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:50pm

FDR wasn't left wing. He's the man responsible for saving capitalism from itself. While I respect him for championing important labor reforms, at the end of the day he was not a Leftist and his opinions on public labor unions are reflective of this. But hey, literally anything the government does is socialism to you, so why would you care about nuance?

Paul Jordan
Sun, 01/12/2020 - 10:08am

In framing this provision of the state constitution, the people spoke: No public funds for private schools. This is entirely consistent with the US Constitution separation of church & state.
While the first amendment prohibits the government from restraining speech (including practicing a particular religion), it does not require the government to encourage or promote religious expression.
Too many people think that because they have strongly held religious beliefs that it is everyone else's obligation to behave according to those beliefs. Not so at all. There is no right to impose your religious beliefs on anyone else, or to expect other people to fund schools that indoctrinate your children in those religious beliefs.

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 2:41pm

Yes. You are 100% right. If anyone (with half a brain) reads the Michigan Constitution it is crystal clear what it says. Yet the GOP (and DeVos family) want to ignore what it says.

If they want to change it then open up the amendment and do it! They don't want to do that - it's hard and they would have to actually state why they want to change it. They know they would lose. Now they want to dump a bazillion dollars (Amway money) and try to buy the change.

Sun, 01/12/2020 - 10:09am

George is right. It is in the Michigan Constitution. "Public funds will not be used to finance religious schools". It is based on the separation of church and state. If you want to change any part of the Michigan Constitution you are going to need to bring it to a vote of the entire population of Michigan! Some of us believe in the separation of church and state. We think it helps to keep the peace here. It has nothing to do with Catholics other than not everyone is one!

Gerry Donaldson
Sun, 01/12/2020 - 1:32pm

What is the position if a coven of witches chooses to set up a school, or Muslims ask for $$$$?

Sun, 01/12/2020 - 2:08pm

Ann, Amen. Walk a mile in a teachers shoes. More than your feet will hurt. Peace R.L.

Boo Hoo
Mon, 01/13/2020 - 10:43am

Catholic church wants subsidies to retain power because no one fears the almighty church anymore, well, no one besides unsupervised children. The flocks left. Time to close shop.

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 7:50am

When a check is written or deposit is made from a State of Michigan account to the account of a religious institution how does that not involve the government support of a religion? Weave together all of the arcane words and legal jargon to present to the courts and the people and the meaning of all of the words and word combination is spelled "S t a t e s u p p o r t e d r e l i g i o n ." which requires legislation supporting religion.

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 6:06pm

I don't believe in State sanctioned government religion. Let the money go with the child and create a free market education that improves the education of all through competition. Public school shouldn't have to pay for private schooling as private shouldn't pay for public schools. Separation of State and religion is truly needed and not one sided separation. The private schools are saving the State tons of money. If private schools closed the State would have less money per pupil. The State effectively increased public school enrollment by closing private schools, without any extra revenues to support those extra students. Those in private schools pay for their own education and also taxes for public school education. So if you want your taxes to go up or/and the resources to decrease in public schools only then is it an awesome idea.

Cindy M
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:39am

Tax dollars for public schools only!

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 9:12am

No tax dollar monies for private and/or parochial education. You want to send your kids? Fine. You pay for it, as my parents did to send me to Catholic school.

Stephanie Willey
Mon, 01/27/2020 - 10:50am

Non-public schools are, by their very nature private schools. Private schools must be funded by the private sector economy, NOT the public sector.

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 3:14pm

Public dollars should be spent on public facilities. Those who support giving public dollars to private schools are probably thinking only of Christian schools. There are many religions, and any of them can establish schools. Are those in support of funding private schools willing to give their tax dollars to schools that don't promote their particular religious beliefs?

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 9:09am

What many don't realize is public school money is also used for homeschoolers through school districts, so they can claim them as part time students. This isn't for the homeschoolers to go part time in the public school building (called Shared Time, which started in the 80s). This money goes to pay for co-ops classes (held in private business or churches). These classes are for core classes (against the Constitution), and electives (some things like horseback riding, gymnastics, karate...) who's tuition is paid to a private business. So state money is going to private business. A public kid's tuition for karate is paid by mom and dad, yet a homeschooler's tuition for the same class is paid for by the State. I am a homeschooler and this is all kinds of wrong! There is no "slippery slope"! We are down the hill and thrashing in the mud! I believe in homeschoolers being able to use public facilities like OSTC, but NOT using government money to fund a private tuition at a business.

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 5:07pm

No. Do not allow public funding to private schools. I went to a Catholic school from grades 1-12. My children went to Catholic school for 8 years. My daughter asked to go to a public school and my son went to a Catholic High School. I know what I’m talking about. Keep the government out of parochial schools. As for private schools, such as Detroit Country Day, for example, they’re doing just fine for those kids who’s parents can afford them. The Michigan Catholic Conference should back off on this.

Ann Farnell
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 2:52pm

No to tax dollars for private schools!