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Hearing On Controversial Part Of State Budget Scheduled For Today


A controversial portion of the state’s budget will be in court today.

The hearing will decide whether private schools can spend money given to them in the state budget.  Even though that portion of the budget is in the middle of a lawsuit. 

Lawmakers want to give $2.5 million to private schools.  This would be to reimburse them for things they have to do under state law, like fire drills.

But groups who filed a lawsuit say that part of the budget is unconstitutional.  They want the judge to keep a lid on the money until a decision is made on the lawsuit. 

Chris Wigent is with the Michigan Association of School Administrators.  He said if the court lets the state give away the money now, it would create problems for their case. 

“We’re very concerned that if they spend the money, which, of course, we feel strongly is unconstitutional.  That could set some type of practice or some type of precedent,” he said.  “That then they would say well we already did it, then now we’re able to continue to do it.”

Private schools say the appropriation is not unconstitutional because it’s for things the state requires the schools to do. 

I think we ought to treat all kids equally,” he said.  “I don’t think that we ought to have some group of kids not getting the benefits of state dollars for health and safety or any kind of other things that we might be able to afford them.”

Republican Representative Tim Kellystrongly advocated for giving the money to private schools.

But public schools argue the appropriation goes against the constitutional ban on state dollars for private schools. 

“They can sort and select who can come to their schools,” said Wigent.  “Parents pay tuition.  And again, the bottom line is that the constitution prohibits any public dollars for private schools.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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