MIDLAND, Mich. — A groundbreaking new lawsuit from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, in conjunction with Bursch Law, alleges that Michigan’s restriction on the use of public funds to pay for private educational services is unconstitutional.
Frustrated with the educational options provided by their conventional public schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, five Michigan families sought better opportunities for their children.
Many families with young children, including plaintiff Jessie Bagos, had to grapple with the fact that the only option their districts provided their children at the beginning of the school year was virtual school. Despite living in one of the most populous areas of metro Detroit, the Bagos family was unable to access any other options, so their twin boys started kindergarten in front of a computer screen and remained there most of the year.
“To have the option to choose schools would be life changing,” said Jessie Bagos. “For everyone, not just us. Hopefully this lawsuit can help with that.”
The lawsuit seeks to enable Michigan families to use funds they have saved through the Michigan Education Savings Program to help pay for private educational opportunities, including private school tuition. This would help families across the state have access to a broader range of education options. Unfortunately, a discriminatory provision in the Michigan Constitution undermines the ability of the Bagos and other families to access these options.
Michigan’s Blaine Amendment, passed in 1970, is rooted in religious bigotry and has become infamous for being the most restrictive of its kind across the country. The amendment prohibits the use of any public funds to support families who choose private educational opportunities.
Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue paved the way for more families to benefit from programs that fund the choice of K-12 private or public schools. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, Michigan’s restrictive amendment makes the state an outlier. This lawsuit by the Mackinac Center seeks to give Michigan families the same educational freedoms those in other states are now able to pursue.
“If we can knock down this barrier, the whole playing field changes,” said Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center. “The shutdown and disruption of many public schools since the spring of 2020 shows just how important it is that families across Michigan can have the flexibility of using their education funds to provide their children with the best opportunity to succeed.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on behalf of five families across the state and the PACE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the rights of Michigan parents to provide educational opportunities for their children.
You can view more information about the case, including our clients and their stories, here.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
Please consider contributing to our work to advance a freer and more prosperous state.