News Story

Michigan parents ask U.S. Supreme Court to strike down ban on aid to private education

State constitution makes Michigan an outlier in education choice

An effort to expand education choice in Michigan took another step April 4 as attorneys for several Michigan parents asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn an appeals court ruling in their lawsuit against the state.

Lawyers presenting five Michigan families and the Parent Advocates for Choice in Education Foundation filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. The heart of the case lies in an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. Article 8, section 2 of the constitution prohibits direct or indirect appropriation of public funds to nonpublic schools, whether secular or religious. The lawsuit argues that this ban violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the parents Nov. 3, 2023. The court summarized the parents’ claim this way: “Because of the amendment, religious persons and schools cannot lobby their state representatives for governmental aid or tuition help without first amending the state constitution, which they argue disadvantages them in the political process.” The court then dismissed the claim, saying that to do otherwise “would require striking down a facially neutral law that does not single out religious people for disfavored treatment.” In their ruling, the judges noted that the U.S. Supreme Court does not require states to subsidize private education.

Michigan is an outlier when it comes to education choice, with 32 states having some sort of it, according to EdChoice, a nonprofit that advocates for education choice. Universal or near-universal choice programs exist in 11 states, it says. These programs include education savings accounts, scholarship programs that are fueled by tax credits, and vouchers.

A timeline of the case, Hile v. State of Michigan, along with various legal documents related to it, is available at the Mackinac Center website.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.