Agudath Israel Disappointed with Michigan Court Decision Striking Down Nonpublic School Program

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Agudath Israel of America expressed its disappointment today with the Michigan Court of Claims’ recent decision striking down the state’s nonpublic school reimbursement program.
In her decision, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens said the program violates the state constitution’s “Blaine amendment” language prohibiting direct or indirect aid to nonpublic schools. The $2.5 million program to reimburse nonpublic schools for state mandates that pertain to the health, safety, and welfare of their students was included in the 2016 and 2017 budget bills. The multi-year effort was led by the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools, who were joined by Agudath Israel of America and other nonpublic school advocates. However, due to the lawsuit by the ACLU and others, payment has been held back.
Agudath Israel of America joined several other organizations in an amicus curiae brief in 2016 (click here to see brief) asking the Michigan Supreme Court to review the program before it took effect. Unfortunately, the court declined to opine on the constitutionality of the program at the time and it is now working its way through the state courts. The same attorneys who wrote the amicus brief for the nonpublic school groups recently filed a separate lawsuit arguing that the very “Blaine amendment” which is the basis of this negative ruling, is itself unconstitutional.
“We are hopeful that the state will appeal this ruling to the Court of Appeals and that the second lawsuit dealing with constitutionality of the Blaine amendment prevails, thus removing the dark cloud over our nations’ history,” said Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel’s national director of state relations. “Blaine amendments are debilitating provisions born of bigotry specifically targeting religion and its adherents.”
The nation’s first mandated services program was established by the New York State Legislature in 1974, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Rabbi Moshe Sherer of Agudath Israel of America and other nonpublic school advocates.

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