Michigan Supreme Court allows state funds for non-public schools


(JTA) — A state Supreme Court decision in Michigan that leaves state reimbursements for non-public schools in place for 2017 has won praise from Orthodox Jewish groups.

At issue was the constitutionality of $2.5 million in public funds for the schools’ health and safety mandates included in the state budget for next year.

The Michigan high court said it decided not to hear the case on the constitutionality of the program because it was not “persuaded that granting the request would be an appropriate exercise of the Court’s discretion.” The decision was issued on Oct. 5.

Since the court declined to hear the case, non-public schools, including Jewish day schools, will continue to receive the reimbursements.

Gov. Rick Snyder asked the court to review the reimbursement issue in an advisory opinion in July when he signed the budget for the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The Orthodox Union welcomed the decision in a statement issued Friday, saying it was “thankful” that the money stayed in the  budget.

“For the time being, children in non-public schools will get the financial help they need,” the group said. “We remain optimistic that this funding will eventually be ruled constitutional for the benefit of children in years to come.”

Agudath Israel of America, a haredi Orthodox group, also welcomed the decision.

Four U.S. states, including New York, now provide reimbursements to private schools for state mandates.

“While we are disappointed that the court didn’t provide the clarity we had requested, we are happy that the program can now proceed,” said Agudah’s national director of state relations, Rabbi A.D. Motzen.

Education groups against the reimbursement point out that private schools cannot receive public funds, noting  the Michigan state constitution says: “No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid … directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary or secondary school.”

There are 643 private schools in Michigan.

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