Advocating Against the Absurdity
Over the past several months, the West Michigan Talent Triangle, many public school leaders, and I have been sharing our concerns with lawmakers about plans to change the School Aid Act to provide public funding to support private schools. Today, this once unbelievable (and unconstitutional) action has been taken. Now, while we await the review of the Supreme Court, we must urgently advocate against this absurdity.
The 2016-17 School Aid Conference Report (Sec. 152b) allocated $2.5 million in public funds to nonpublic schools for the costs identified in the Michigan Department of Education Nonpublic Schools Mandate Report published in 2014. The report identifies several statutes and rules that directly reimburse and support general educational programs as well as basic state health and safety laws.
The Michigan Constitution prohibits public resources from being appropriated directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic school. This new private school categorical fund contains provisions that violate the constitution which, among other things, includes the instruction of core curriculum subjects and content. Additionally, public schools do not receive extra money to provide for the same basic, common sense, public safety-related type of state mandates. Clearly, this is a violation of our constitution.
In 2000, the public spoke loudly about prohibiting this type of expenditure of public resources for private schools through their strong opposition to a constitutional amendment to fund a voucher system.
More importantly, the State still does not provide adequate funding for special education, and we surely have significant challenges funding the needs of our own at-risk populations. To take any funds away from public school students to fund private schools is just wrong.
While those in power in Lansing have approved this new law, they must hear our dissatisfaction loud and clear as we raise our voices on behalf of the children we serve. Please visit Muskegon Area Matters to find quick links to our lawmakers' contact info and speak out against the use of public funds for private schools.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Dr. John Severson
Muskegon Area ISD Superintendent