The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



STATE OF MICHIGAN

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

EDUCATION:

SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS:

Test sites for nonpublic school students seeking Michigan Merit Award

The Michigan Merit Award Scholarship Act requires the Michigan Merit Award Board to provide test sites for nonpublic school students wishing to take assessment tests.

Opinion No. 7107

May 14, 2002

Honorable Bob Brown
State Representative
The Capitol
Lansing, MI 48913

You have asked if the Michigan Merit Award Scholarship Act requires the Michigan Merit Award Board to provide test sites for nonpublic school students wishing to take assessment tests.

The Michigan Merit Award Scholarship Act, 1999 PA 94, MCL 390.1451 et seq, creates the Michigan merit award scholarship trust fund to provide merit awards to qualifying high school graduates. The goal of the program is to increase access to postsecondary education and training and to reward Michigan high school graduates who have demonstrated academic achievement. Section 4. The program is administered by the Michigan Merit Award Board, which is established in the Department of Treasury. Sections 4 and 7.

Under the Scholarship Act, awards are granted to Michigan students, including public and nonpublic school students, and home school students who receive qualifying results in the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and who also meet certain other eligibility requirements set forth in the Act. Sections 2 and 7. Under the Revised School Code, 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.1 et seq, Michigan public schools including public school academies must administer the MEAP tests to their high school students. Section 1279. Section 1279(14) of the Revised School Code, which also gives students in nonpublic or home schools the opportunity to take the MEAP assessment, provides that:

A child who is a student in a nonpublic school or home school may take an assessment under this section. To take an assessment, a child who is a student in a home school shall contact the school district in which the child resides, and that school district shall administer the assessment, or the child may take the assessment at a nonpublic school if allowed by the nonpublic school. Upon request from a nonpublic school, the department shall supply assessments and the nonpublic school may administer the assessment. [Emphasis added.]

Under the Scholarship Act, the responsibility for administering MEAP tests to nonpublic school students and home school students rests with the Award Board.

A nonpublic school student or home school student may take, and the board shall administer if requested, an assessment test at a site designated by the board. [Section 7(11), MCL 390.1457(11). Emphasis added.]

The first step in ascertaining legislative intent is to look to the text of the statute. Piper v Pettibone Corp, 450 Mich 565, 571; 542 NW2d 269 (1995). Where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, the Legislature's intent must be carried out according to its plain meaning. Dean v Dep't of Corrections, 453 Mich 448, 454; 556 NW2d 458 (1996). In such instances, statutory construction is neither required nor permitted; rather, the court must apply the statutory language as written. Piper, supra, at 572.

Here, the Legislature’s intent is clear from the statutory language. Michigan merit awards are to be available to all Michigan students, including those who attend nonpublic schools and those who are home schooled. To qualify for a merit award, a student must be able to take the MEAP test. Under the Revised School Code, nonpublic schools may administer the MEAP test but are not required to do so. Thus, a nonpublic school student may not necessarily be able to take the MEAP test at his or her nonpublic school. In any event, the Legislature has expressly required that, if there is a request, the Award Board must administer the MEAP test to nonpublic school students and to home schooled students at a site designated by the Award Board.

It is my opinion, therefore, that the Michigan Merit Award Scholarship Act requires the Michigan Merit Award Board to provide test sites for nonpublic school students wishing to take assessment tests.

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
Attorney General