Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan Supreme Court delays private school funding case

By: - February 6, 2020 3:00 pm

Michigan Supreme Court | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments in March on a case deciding whether the state Legislature can spend public money on private schools.

As the Advance previously reported, the Supreme Court was scheduled to hold arguments on March 4 and 5 in Council of Organizations v. State of Michigan. But the court in an order released Wednesday set the lawsuit aside, pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a high-profile federal case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which also concerns funding for parochial schools.

The Michigan issue dates back to 2016, when GOP-then Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Fiscal Year 2017 K-12 state budget that included a $2.5 million appropriation to reimburse private and parochial schools for complying with mandates to which state public schools must adhere, like for transportation or teacher certifications.

A coalition of education groups in 2017 lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the funding. The state Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case in June 2019.

Justice Elizabeth Clement didn’t take part in the decision, as she is Snyder’s former counsel. Justice Stephen Markman dissented, arguing the delay is too long.

“With oral argument now likely to be rescheduled to the next term of the court, it will have been nearly five years from the time of the enactment of this measure that a determination of constitutionality may perhaps emerge,” Markman wrote.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.