Earlier this week I wrote about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Blaine Amendment laws which prohibit the flow of public dollars to organizations with a religious affiliation. Think private schools affiliated with, say, a church.
I noted that there might be implications in the law for school choice proposals. Here in North Dakota our state constitution’s Blaine Amendment language is often invoked in opposition to proposed policies which would have public money follow students into private schools run by the Catholic Church and other religious organizations.
The Supreme Court seems to be saying that denying public funds to religious organizations and their affiliated enterprises merely because they’re religions is unconstitutional. But will the court be willing to extend that point of view to voucher or school choice programs specifically?
It seems like they might be. The day after SCOTUS issued their ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer – a case from Missouri relating to public assistance for resurfacing playgrounds – they also vacated two state supreme court rulings dealing with the same subject matter.
One case is in New Mexico, the other in Colorado. The latter dealing specifically with a school voucher program allowing students to take public dollars to private schools (including religious schools).
It’s not definite that the Supreme Court will extend their philosophy in Trinity to school choice programs – as of now they’re just asking for the state courts to review their rulings in light of Trinity – but it’s a good sign.