LANSING, Mich. - The question of whether public school districts can deduct money from teacher paychecks for the political arm of the Michigan Education Association has reached the Michigan Supreme Court, according to a report at Legal Newsline.

The court has not yet agreed to hear the case, but will hear oral arguments from the MEA and the Michigan Secretary of State. The original case was brought by the MEA, which has collective bargaining agreements with school districts that require the districts to administer a payroll deduction plan for contributions to the MEA political action committee, Newsline reported.

An Ingham County judge said such contract provisions did not violate state law, according to Newsline, as long as the political action committee or union pays for school districts' added expenses in advance.

But the state Court of Appeals later ruled that government resources cannot be used to make political contributions even if the school district is paid in advance, the report said.

"We concede that the Legislature may have the authority to allow public bodies to engage in some limited form of partisan politics," the appeals court ruled, according to Newsline. "However, until the Legislature explicitly makes such a pronouncement, courts should be reluctant to allow public bodies to engage in any form of politics."

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Education Digest, filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, arguing that the Michigan Campaign Finance Act shows that such paycheck withdrawals are illegal and that government has no appropriate role in advancing partisan political ends.

SOURCE:
Legal Newsline, “Mich. Supreme Court agrees to hear teacher PAC case,” May 12, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in Michigan Education Association v. Michigan Secretary of State,” Sept. 2, 2008

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