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MI Supreme Court will decide whether taxpayer money can ever go to private schools

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The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether it’s ever okay under the state Constitution for taxpayer dollars to support private schools.

The case challenges two state budgets adopted by Republicans. They include provisions that allow private and parochial schools to be reimbursed for some expenses, as long as the money is not directly related to educating students. A provision in the Michigan Constitution says taxpayer dollars can’t go to support private schools.

Michigan public school groups and the ACLU are challenging the budgets.

Dan Korobkin of the ACLU says that’s not allowed under the Michigan Constitution. The Constitution has a provision that says public funds can’t go to private schools.

“We shouldn’t be diverting tax dollars away from the public schools. We should be investing in our public schools to make sure a quality education is available to all children,” he says.

Korobkin notes Michigan voters have also rejected a plan to allow school vouchers. He says that suggests the Legislature should back off plans to send state funds to private schools.

Don Wotruba is with the Michigan Association of School Boards. He says the question should be settled once and for all.

“They’re either going to say, we're going to open the door even further or they’re going to say, we’ve said it before and we’re going to say it again – here are the standards by which we’re going to decide these cases, and this appropriation by the Legislature is wrong based on our Constitution,” he says.

Wotruba says parents have the right to choose private or parochial schools.

"But if they make that choice, we don’t believe that should be supported by taxpayer dollars,” says Wotruba.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled earlier that the state can pay private schools for some expenses.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.