Friday, May 20, 2022

DCL discusses controversial Proposal 1

September 29, 2000

The MSU-Detroit College of Law held a forum earlier this week to discuss Proposal 1 - which, if approved, would grant parents with children in faltering school districts vouchers to send their children to nonpublic schools.

Voters will decide whether to support the state ballot proposal in November’s general election.

Sponsored by the Law Review of DCL, the forum focused on the legal and constitutional ramifications of the proposal, specifically whether it would be a violation of the separation of church and state if the voucher was used to send a student to a religious private school.

Dissenters insist the proposal is unconstitutional because it takes public tax dollars and invests them in private, and potentially religious, schools.

The proposal would grant vouchers to parents with children attending school districts where graduation rates are less than two-thirds.

“This is about exploring significant issues in education,” said Peter Koulik, co-chairperson of Wednesday’s voucher forum and note and comment editor for the Law Review.

The Law Review is a student-edited academic publication dedicated to the advancement of discussion on timely legal issues.

Richard D. McLellan, a Lansing attorney and the chief legal architect of the voucher initiative, spoke to the 75 people that attended the forum.

He told students why he and his pro-voucher organization, Kids First! Yes!, feel the proposed amendment to the Michigan constitution should be adopted and why it is not a violation of the separation of church and state.

“The proposal would still absolutely prohibit the direct funding to nonpublic schools,” McLellan said. “The voucher is a private choice given to the parents and students. It provides more opportunities and choices.”

But not all think the proposal is fair.

Arthur Pryzbylowicz, general counsel for the Michigan Education Association, was confident the initiative will be shot down in November.

“The United States Supreme Court is behind this with the current Constitution,” he said. “Under the current law it is clearly unconstitutional no matter what it is called.”

Nancy Valenta, co-chairperson of the forum and a note and comment editor for the Law Review, thought the forum shed some light on the issue.

“It was important the speakers stayed focused on the legal issues for this forum to be effective,” she said.

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