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Private schools win decision over tax dollars for safety

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The Michigan Supreme Court on Monday upheld a law that gives public money to private schools to comply with health and safety orders.

The court’s decision was 3-3, which means an opinion in favor of private schools by the state appeals court will stand.

At issue was whether more than $5 million authorized by lawmakers during Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration conflicts with the Michigan Constitution, which says “no public monies or property” can be used to “aid or maintain” private schools.

The money is OK because it’s not for “educational services” in private schools, said justices Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra and David Viviano, all nominated by the Republican Party.

Three Democrats — Megan Cavanagh, Bridget McCormack and Richard Bernstein — disagreed.

“Simply stated, the aid provided to nonpublic schools ... is of a ‘direct’ nature,” they said. “The legislation appropriates public monies for one specific purpose: to pay that money directly to nonpublic schools. None of this court’s precedents permits such a result.”

Justice Elizabeth Clement, a Republican nominee to the court, didn’t participate because she was a lawyer in Snyder’s office.

The case now returns to the Court of Claims.