Rick Pluta – Michigan Radio |
The fight is over a $2.5 million appropriation tucked into the $55 billion 2016 state budget.
The money was earmarked to reimburse non-public schools for the costs of complying with health and safety mandates. But its real purpose was to set the stage for a legal fight over the parameters of a 1970, voter-approved amendment. It says taxpayer funds cannot support non-public schools – including religious schools.
Attorney John Bursch said parochial schools are the real target of the ban.
“It’s the intent, and clearly the intent was to discriminate against religious schools specifically,” he told the court during online oral arguments.
But Assistant Michigan Attorney General Eric Restuccia said it’s not the court’s job to divine voters’ intentions. He said the amendment was carefully crafted to apply to all non-public schools, not just schools with a religious affiliation.
“It’s not like Michigan Constitution tried to identify just the private schools or even a denomination within – all non-public schools.”