MIDLAND, Mich. — The United States Federal District Court will hear oral arguments today in a challenge to Michigan’s Blaine amendment, brought by five families across the state and the PACE Foundation, a nonprofit membership organization of Michigan parents who support the right to choose educational opportunities for their children. The families and the PACE Foundation are being represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and Bursch Law.
“We’re hoping that our parental rights are honored with freedom of choice for our child’s education and for all others to have equal and obtainable opportunities for their child to get the education they feel their children deserve,” said Jill Hile, a Kalamazoo parent of a first-grade student and Mackinac Center client.
Another client and parent of three children in elementary and middle school, Nicole Leitch of Charlotte, expressed hope that this case would “open the doors for education reform and expand school choice opportunities.”
The lawsuit, filed in September of 2021, seeks to allow tax-exempt education savings accounts to be used for private education. The Michigan Constitution currently has a discriminatory provision that does not allow any public funds to be used toward private schools. This stands in the way of parents’ ability to gain tax benefits from using their self-funded 529 accounts to help cover the cost of private school tuition.
“We are hopeful this case will open the door to bring choice in education to all families in Michigan,” said Jessie Bagos, a parent of two first-grade students and client of the Mackinac Center. “It’s important that our children have the best available options to succeed in life and school.”
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down other states’ similar amendments in its 2020 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, but the overly restrictive language in Michigan’s amendment makes the state an outlier.
“The Court should follow the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court and knock down this unconstitutional and discriminatory barrier,” said Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. “A positive decision could open up doors for families and students who wish to pursue different educational options.”
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