News Release: Michigan’s ‘Blaine Amendment’ Should Not Exclude Health and Safety Protections for All Students

Oral Arguments Before Michigan Supreme Court Urge Equal Protection for Students Enrolled in Michigan’s Nonpublic Schools

A smiling teacher helps one of her students with a tablet

November 10, 2020

(Lansing, Mich.) — The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this afternoon regarding a state policy supported by Michigan Catholic Conference to reimburse nonpublic schools for dozens of state-mandated expenses that include protections for safe water, lock-down training and immunization records, among others. At issue is whether or not Article 8, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution (known as the “Blaine Amendment”) approved at the ballot in 1970 allows for the state to reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses unrelated to education, instruction or curriculum.

“Today’s arguments focus on a simple premise: does the state have the responsibility to ensure a safe classroom for all school-age children in Michigan? We do not believe the state-aid limitations enacted at the ballot in 1970 were intended to prevent nonpublic school students from being treated differently than their public school counterparts in terms of the safety of a school building. Further, it is highly unlikely that voters sought to deny reimbursements for safety grants or lockdown drill training, safe water to drink, or measures to fight a pandemic. Our position is that all students deserve equal treatment in terms of health and safety protections, regardless of whether they attend a public or nonpublic school.”

Although a total of $5.25 million has already been appropriated by the legislature to reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses related to state mandates, the funds have not been disbursed as numerous public-school advocacy groups have litigated the policy since it was signed into law in 2016. While the Court of Claims initially ruled against the appropriation, Michigan Catholic Conference was pleased the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the decision, leading to today’s arguments before the state Supreme Court.

The Office of Attorney General, which is obligated to provide legal counsel for the legislature and the laws it passes, has instead joined plaintiffs in opposition to the appropriation and will argue today against the state paying for the cost of safety regulations in nonpublic schools, as it does for public schools.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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