Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Lawsuit targets Michigan’s ban on public money paying for private, religious education

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation partnered with Bursch Law to file a lawsuit calling Michigan’s ban on the use of public money to pay for private education unconstitutional.

Five Family and Parent Advocates for Choice in Education (PACE) Foundation of Michigan, a nonprofit that supports the rights of Michigan parents to provide educational opportunities for their children, through traditional public schools for COVID-19 Joined the trial after the pandemic let them down. Plaintiff Jesse Baggos’ school only provided a virtual school for his young children for much of the last school year. She wanted other options for her twin boys starting kindergarten rather than sitting in front of a screen.

“The choice to choose a school will be life-changing,” Bagos said in a statement. “For everyone, not just us. Hopefully this lawsuit can help with that.”

Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code allows state-sponsored savings plans to fund higher education expenses. Michigan’s plan is the Education Savings Plan (MESP) of Michigan. Bagos funded a MESP and wants to spend that money on private, religious school tuition of his children.

But Michigan’s Blaine Amendment, passed in 1970, prohibits using public money for private education. If Bagos spends MESP money on private, religious education, the Blaine Amendment would reverse the tax deduction Michigan parents received on contributions.

The lawsuit cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, arguing that it paved the way for more families to tap programs that fund the choice of K-12 private or public schools .

“[I]t is unconstitutional for a state to use the Blaine Amendment to ‘divorce’ themselves ‘from any religious control or affiliation’ to religious schools and families attending those schools’ eligible for government assistance forces to be’,” Sue says.

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The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan, seeks to enable Michigan families to use MESP funds to help pay for private education, including private school tuition. The lawsuit says Michigan’s “restrictive” amendment makes the state an outlier.

“If we can eliminate this barrier, the whole playing field changes,” Ben DeGro, Mackinac Center’s director of education policy, said in a statement. “The closures and disruptions of many public schools since the spring of 2020 show how important it is for families across Michigan to have the flexibility to use their education funds to provide their children with the best opportunity to succeed. It is possible.”

Beth DeShon, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, commended the lawsuit.

“The time has come to end religious bigotry in Michigan,” Dashon said in a statement. “Federal law prohibits religious discrimination against parents and children, and the state of Michigan should also drop its big Blaine Amendment. GLEP is incredibly proud of the brave parents who defend their children against discrimination. Standing today to protect.”

by Scott McClain

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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