Recently here in North Dakota we had a debate over school choice policies and how they relate to archaic, bigoted language in the state Constitution banning state funding for “sectarian schools.” Unfortunately, the state legislature rejected both the school choice legislation introduced by Rep. Mark Dosch and a constitutional amendment introduced by Rep. Bette Grande which would have removed the language, called a “Blaine amendment.”
Democrats, and a contingent of Republicans, argued against Dosch’s school choice bill by claiming that it would be unconstitutional under state law. Rep. Dosch argued that his legislation passes constitutional muster (video of my interview with him here).
It seems likely that Rep. Dosch is right. In Indiana, which also has a “Blaine amendment,” the state Supreme Court just ruled that school voucher legislation is constitutional.
The full opinion is here. From a summary of the opinion:
[T]he court rejected claims that the program violates provisions of the Indiana Constitution regarding education and religion. The court emphasized that Indiana’s Constitution does not intend to prohibit religious institutions from receiving indirect government services, “such as fire and police protection, municipal water and sewage service, sidewalks and streets,” but only prohibits expenditures directly benefiting such institutions. The direct beneficiaries of the voucher program are not the schools but those eligible families who are free to select which schools to attend.
Rep. Dosch’s was constructed in the same way, having parents initiate payments to private schools when they notify the school districts of their decision to opt-out of their public school.
Of course, we have no assurances that the North Dakota Supreme Court would rule similarly, but those who carried on as though the courts striking down Dosch’s bill was a certainty were wrong.