The Supreme Court should drop the school voucher bomb

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Public attention on upcoming Supreme Court decisions has been Roe vs. Wadethe 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and the Dobbs vs. Jackson draft opinion reversing this precedent. But the court will also soon rule in another case that could cause an earthquake for public education.

The case is Carson v. Makin, which has been driven to expand voucher policies that provide public funds for private and religious education. The case involves a program in Maine that allows the state to pay private school tuition in areas where there are no public schools — so long as that private institution is “non-sectarian in accordance to the First Amendment”. Two families, along with a libertarian institute, have filed a lawsuit demanding that the courts compel the state to include sectarian religious schools in the curriculum.

Similar claims were dismissed by lower courts. But, as my Post colleague Robert Barnes reported in the hearings last December in Carson v. Makinconservative Supreme Court justices – who represent the majority, “seemed poised … to extend a line of recent rulings favoring religious interests” and “criticized” Maine’s program that barred public funds from going to religious instruction .

A movement to privatize public education in this country has gathered strength at a time when traditional public school districts are facing some of their gravest challenges. Most states have a school “choice” program, and during the coronavirus pandemic, a number of Republican-led legislatures pushed through new legislation to expand charter schools and voucher programs. Most of them lack serious safeguards to ensure that students, families and taxpayers are protected against “discrimination, corruption and fraud”.

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In Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is likely to require Maine officials to use public funds to subsidize religious education and proselytizing in schools that legally discriminate against people who don’t support their religious beliefs. A decision in favor of the families “would amount to a license to externalize discrimination,” according to Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s School of Education. He is also a lawyer and an education teacher.

Supreme Court Tories Criticize Tuition Curriculum Excluding Religious Education

Welner also wrote that a ruling against the state could affect charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated. A carson ruling in favor of families may mean that states could be seen as “engaging in discrimination if they did not allow a church or religious entity to operate a publicly funded charter school as a religious school “.

Schools in traditionally run school districts are not allowed to violate Maine’s anti-discrimination laws, but a school privately run by a religious organization may be able to do so under such a ruling. The Supreme Court has in recent years provided the legal basis for courts to require charter school authorities to allow religious organizations to be granted charters regardless of their religious status.

“The Supreme Court is just a step away from turning every charter school law in the United States into a private school voucher policy,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the nation may face a future of religious organizations proselytizing through charter schools that have been freed from having to obey anti-discrimination laws – members of the LGBTQ+ community being the most likely victims.”

Here is the full policy brief:


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