The public schools enroll 1,549,000 students: 68% White, 18% African American, 7% Latino, and 3% Asian, with 47% living in poverty, and 5% learning English. The State spends $10,515 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Mich. Const. art. VIII, § 1.
“The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin. No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized … directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school. The legislature may provide for the transportation of students to and from any school.” Mich. Const. art. VIII, § 2.
“No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of his civil or political rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of religion, race, color or national origin. The legislature shall implement this section by appropriate legislation.” Mich. Const. art. I, § 2.
“The state is hereby prohibited from reducing the state financed proportion of the necessary costs of any existing activity or service required of units of Local Government by state law.” Mich. Const. art. IX, § 29.
In 1972, in Milliken v. Green, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the State’s school funding system, which resulted in inequality in per-pupil expenditures among districts, violated the equal protection clause of the State constitution. However, the following year, on rehearing, the court vacated that decision and dismissed the case.
In 1984, in East Jackson Public Schools v. State, the State Court of Appeals held that education is not a fundamental right under the constitution, and the State's obligation to provide a system of free public education does not require equal per-pupil funding among districts. However, the Court recognized a State obligation to provide an “adequate education.”
In Durant v. State in 1997, the Michigan Supreme Court held that special education is an “activity or service” within the meaning of the maintenance-of-support clause of the Michigan Constitution (art. IX, § 29) and ordered the State to pay school districts the full amount of State underfunding during the three years at issue in the lawsuit.
In 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeals dismissal of S.S. v. State, which alleged severe deprivation of education in reading and writing, in violation of the constitution and a State statute, for students in a predominantly African-American school district with concentrated poverty.
In 2016, plaintiff parents filed D.R. v. Michigan Department of Education in federal Court, alleging violations of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Rehabilitation Act and claiming that the lead poisoning of Flint’s water supply worsened these violations.