I’ve written before about North Dakota’s “Blaine amendment” language in the state constitution. The language prohibits the use of tax dollars raised for the purposes of public education being used for “sectarian” or religions schools. It was born of the anti-Catholic bigotry of the 19th century, the era of the “Know Nothing Party,” and unfortunately has existed in our state constitution since it was first framed.
Now it’s being used by Democrats, and some Republicans, to stymie school choice policies.
Today HC3037, introduced by Rep. Bette Grande, was debated on the floor of the state House. It would have simply removed the language, and permitted state funding of sectarian schools. Unfortunately the constitutional resolution failed with Democrats arguing that it was a precursor to implementing school choice.
The vote was 47 – 47.
It’s absolutely true that removing this language would make instituting school choice policies easier in the state. One of the big obstacles to school choice policy in North Dakota is this language which prohibits education tax dollars from going to religious schools, which most private schools in the state are.
But this amendment wouldn’t have instituted school choice. It would have gotten rid of archaic, bigoted language from our state constitution. The legislature can, and did earlier this session, debate school choice policies but there’s no good argument for keeping the vestiges of religious bigotry in the state constitution.