State Support of Nonpublic School Students
Memorandum 1126, January 2014
Michigan has a constitutional prohibition against providing direct state financial aid to nonpublic (private and parochial) elementary and secondary schools, but this prohibition does not prevent the state from paying for certain educational services provided to nonpublic school students enrolled at public schools. Through an arrangement commonly referred to as “shared time” instruction, nonpublic school students in grades 1-12 enroll part time in public schools (traditional public and charter schools) and receive non-core, elective curriculum instruction that is financed by public dollars. Instruction can take place either at a public school or a nonpublic school. Although the number of nonpublic school students participating in “shared time” arrangements statewide remains relatively small, the prevalence of, and participation in, these arrangements has grown substantially in recent years.
It is easy, upon hearing about “shared time” instruction, to conflate the issue with “parochiaid” — direct state support of nonpublic schools. The two are different in form and very different from a legal perspective. This memorandum provides historical information about Michigan’s experience with “shared time” instruction and “parochiaid,” including the key legal rulings shaping Michigan’s current policy toward state support of private and parochial schools. It also explains the current policy and operations of “shared time” instruction, highlighting participation statewide and at the local district level. Finally, the report discusses factors that are likely to contribute to the continued growth of “shared time” instruction and the financial implications of such growth.