State aid to religious schools ruled constitutional

In an eagerly awaited decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Montana’s ban on state aid to parochial schools is unconstitutional (“Supreme Court Strikes Down Montana Ban on State Aid to Church Schools,” The Wall Street Journal, July 1).  Although the ruling was close, 5-4, I knew the Blaine amendment was doomed in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

I support parental choice because what works for one student doesn’t necessarily work for another. That goes for religious and non-sectarian private schools as well as for traditional public schools. (For the record, I received a solid education in K-12 from public schools on Long Island, N.Y.)

What bothers me, however, is that religious schools operate by a completely different set of rules than traditional public schools.  (That includes charter schools, which are public schools).  As a result, religious, private and charter schools not surprisingly post far better results overall than traditional public schools, which are the schools of last resort.

These schools can’t have it both ways.  They can’t be the beneficiaries of public funding while at the same time be exempt from the rules and regulations of traditional public schools. It’s blatantly unfair.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “State aid to religious schools ruled constitutional”

  1. I agree with your last sentence, that public funding should not go to schools that have the freedom/ mandate to educate in a different way, with different rules which result in different data. But then the separation of church and state was never too strong, not in the area of the country in which I was educated.
    So make a case for any school receiving public funds being required to follow the public school curriculum. If they want to pop in a few prayers and religion study, I wouldn’t be bothered. But the PS curriculum has to be followed.
    Also, I strongly object to your calling traditional Public Education the ‘schools of last resort’. I don’t care if it is technically correct, an an ex-educator, you need to find a better term for public education. ‘Last resort‘ has implications that are so negative as to be perhaps predictive of their future. Do that for your readers, please.


  2. dkhatt: Traditional public schools – not charter schools which are public – in the final analysis become the schools of last resort because they must enroll by law all who show up at their doors regardless of ability or motivation. That is not a pejorative term but a realistic description. Frankly, I’m amazed they do as well as they do under the circumstances.


  3. I agree with yesterday’s SCt decision as a matter of constitutional law — that is, if the govt provides a benefit to a class, the govt must treat religious institutions within that class the same way that the govt treats other institutions within that class.

    Where the SCt — and the federal and state govts generally — are wrong is the longstanding practice of exempting religious institutions from govt regulations where the govt regulation applies to a class of institutions, the religious institutions fall within that class, and the govt nevertheless excludes the religious institutions from the regulation.

    Sauce for the goose, etc.

    If govt has a constitutional obligation to treat religious institutions the same as it treats other institutions for purposes of govt benefits, then the govt likewise has a constitutional obligation to treat religious institutions the same as it treats other institutions for purposes of govt regulations.

    Religious institutions therefore should be subject to all the employment regulations — Catholic churches and orthodox Jewish synagogues must allow women (and now gays) to be priests and rabbis + religious schools cannot give a hiring preference to members of the school’s religion. And, as you argue correctly, religious schools must be subject to the same educational standards as other schools that receive govt $.


  4. Labor Lawyer: Religious schools can’t have it both ways. Now that they are permitted to receive public funds, they must be subject to the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools. But I’ll bet they will escape that requirement by claiming freedom of religion.


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