BREAKING: US Supreme Court deals setback to voucher proponents

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by Brian Washington

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that Missouri violated the constitutional rights of a church when it denied the church’s grant application for a new playground surface. But the court’s narrow ruling represents a setback for voucher proponents, who had sought to use the dispute to undermine state constitutional protections for public education and fuel the expansion of private school vouchers on a national scale, even for religious schools.

The court said it did not “address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination” in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer. The 7-2 decision leaves intact the Missouri constitutional provision prohibiting state funding of religious actions and leaves undisturbed the similar provisions of 38 other states. These “no aid” provisions were enacted to protect public schools and have been applied for decades to ensure that resources for those schools were not diverted to private religious institutions.

Reacting to the decision, Lily Eskelsen GarcÍa, a Utah elementary school teacher and National Education Association president, said:

We applaud the Supreme Court’s refusal to accept the invitation of voucher proponents to issue a broad ruling that could place in jeopardy the ability of states to protect their public education system by refusing to divert public school funding to private religious schools .  . .

State constitutional provisions and decades of precedent protect our public education system from voucher programs. The court’s ruling is a big setback for those who want to push voucher programs that take taxpayer dollars out of public schools to divert them to private religious schools.

The case stems from a program in Columbia, MO, that provides non-profit organizations with grants for playground rubber surfacing. Trinity Lutheran Church, which operates a pre-school and daycare, applied for money for its playground but was turned down due to the state’s constitution, which prohibits public aid going to religious institutions. The church sued.

The ruling is not likely to please voucher supporters such as President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. They have put forth a budget proposal that includes a $1.4 billion voucher program.

Reader Comments

  1. When speaking of “private” schools – people need not differentiate There are plenty of non-religious schools who want vouchers! The well to do want that prestige of private education, don’t want their kids mixing with us regular folk- which make up most of the population! They don’t get”the real picture” of the real world, very elitist! NO NO NO to vouchers!!! We the people NEED quality education! Most places give good education! But politicians seem to turn blind eye to the poorest schools, the ones in need of better funding for supplies, upkeep of buildings & better pay for teachers!

  2. I have no objection to religious schools or private schools as long as they do not take funding away from public schools. The public schools teach a majority of our students and provide education for all students regardless of the income of their parents, regardless of their ability to learn and regardless of their physical and emotional problems. Our public schools need more funding and not less funding.

  3. she has singlehandedly decimated some Michigan school districts without acknowlegdeing her responsibility. Perfect example of the Dunning effect!

  4. I applaud the Supreme Court decision upholding funding for public education. My 43 year teaching career in public education showed me public schools do make a difference for the youth of our nation.

  5. In Arizona, we are fighting to get a Citizens’ Initiative on the ballot in ’18 which will allow voters to assess whether they want the voucher bill passed by our hideous state legislature and just signed into law by our equally hideous governor. The Save Our Schools Arizona group has done a phenomenal job of organizing and distributing petitions, despite the onerous signing restrictions (i.e., no letters in the person’s signature can go below the line of the little box, and the name has to match the signer’s voter registration card exactly) and the fact that this needs to be completed by the end of July in ARIZONA, where it’s 110 degrees at least every day in most of the population hubs! Nonetheless the outpouring of volunteer help has been phenomenal, and we WILL get the 75,000 valid signatures necessary to put this on the ballot!

  6. Good! The state does NOT need to fund a religious school. The Constitution clearly says there is to be a separation of church and state! Protect our public schools. It’s the only way our children will get a balanced education!

  7. Separation of church and state is part of our constitution. Churches have the opportunity to collect tuition and fees from the families of their students. Public schools do not collect tuition and are treated equally instead of a great school here and one that has poor families attending just down the block. The churches can have multiple fund raisers. Schools do not. Taxes are intended to fund the schools. Church schools may keep only the students they want to teach; they do not have to pay for the student who is moved into a public school for inability to deal with them. Churches have what they want; schools must live with taxes.

  8. With the vouchers, the rich who don’t want anything to do with the poor and minorities would be able to better fund private schools.

  9. Public schools are the last hope for most of our neediest students, and our public schools should be receiving every penny available.
    Parents are free to send their kids to private schools, but they should pay for it. Our public schools could be great for all students if we address the problems instead of running to alternatives that don’t.
    School lunches provide the only nutritious meals that a lot of kids get, so why do some in Congress want to water down the nutritional value?

  10. School vouchers deny funds to public schools by diverting funds to a voucher system that leaves students in public schools without money for textbooks and teachers. It is a ridiculous plan and Americans do not want it. Do your job and help public schools instead of destroying them.Vouchers are for wealthy students not students of average means.This scheme benefits people who want to avoid paying taxes for education, not students.

  11. Vouch for Public Education, not for Vouchers. Tax money is for the advancement of the State. Church and State are separated in the Constitution for good reason. Each citizen has the right to support a church of their choice with contributions. American individuals cannot choose where tax dollars intended for the common good should be spent.

  12. Public school funds paid in by taxpayers to support public schools should be used for public schools period. It would be totaly wrong to use that money for vouchers going to private religious schools that do not pay taxes into the fund because of their tax exempt status. You can’t have it both ways.

  13. Vouchers remove funds meant for nonprofit institutions. Private schools, be it secular or religious, should not expect funding from the gov. Public Schools are the cultural glue that educates citizens with American values. We need to train parents to send their kids to school with a mandate to learn. We don’t need to find any other bogus reasons for a school’s poor performance. I grew up poor but knew I’d better do well in school or I’d never hear the end of it from my father. That is the old way and it worked. The changing demographics and attitudes are a problem that needs to be addressed.

  14. If you want people to be self supporting, allow them the opportunity for an EQUAL education. Your vouchers are designed for the wealthy. Please do not destroy our public education.

  15. Thank you for your support in not allowing this to go on any further to hurt our students chances in a successful public school education.

  16. This is good news. The Voucher Program favors well-off students because the voucher only pays a portion of the cost. Low income families will still not be able to afford their share of the tuition to these schools. After all, many families can’t even afford a school lunch for their kids.

  17. Public education, FREE FROM ANY PROPAGANDA FROM ANY RELIGOUS BASE ! Represents the cornerstone of the path to the American dream for our DIVERSE population. As a taxpayer I have a right to NOT HAVE MY TAX DOLLARS used to promote a religious belief system!!

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