Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ravitch: Why the Supreme Court should not force the public to pay for religious schools - The Washington Post

Ravitch: Why the Supreme Court should not force the public to pay for religious schools - The Washington Post:

Ravitch: Why the Supreme Court should not force the public to pay for religious schools

If you don’t know what the Blaine Amendments are, it’s time to learn, because they may be gone soon, and that would affect the United States in a major way.
The Blaine Amendments are provisions in a majority of U.S. state legislatures that prohibit or limit the use of public funds for religious schools, helping maintain a separation of church and state that has long been seen by many Americans as a central tenet of U.S. democracy.
Some school choice supporters, however, oppose these amendments. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long advocated for using public funds to pay for private and religious school tuition and other education expenses. And the Trump administration may propose a federal tax credit to support programs that encourage and facilitate the use of public funding for religious school.
Last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v.PauleyThe case involves the appeal of a Lutheran church in Missouri and its preschool that had sought a grant from a state program to use scrap tires for a playground but was denied because of the 1875 provision in the state constitution — known as a Blaine Amendment — that forbids using any public money “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination or religion.”  The church and preschool sued the state, citing the First Amendment, but lost in a federal district court and a federal appellate court upheld the decision by the state.
Now the Supreme Court will hear the case, with arguments set to begin April 19, and the decision could determine the fate of Blaine Amendments across the country. The high court just returned to a full complement of justices, with President Trump successfully placing his first nominee, the conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, on the court to take the seat of Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch may well be the deciding vote in this case.
The phrase “separation of church and state” are not in the Constitution, but was first used by the 17th century theologian Roger Williams and later by presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as a way to express their views of the function of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In the landmark 1947 Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing case, the Supreme Court wrote that the Establishment Clause does create a “wall of separation” between church and state, and that this means that, at the very least, no “tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.”
Opponents argue that the Blaine Amendments discriminate against religious institutions.
In this post, Diane Ravitch, education historian and public school advocate, explains the history of the Blaine Amendments and why she thinks the Supreme Court should leave them in place. Ravitch worked as assistant education secretary in the administration of former president George H.W. Bush but later underwent a radical change in her views about corporate-based education reform after seeing the consequences of school choice and standardized test-based accountability systems on students and teachers. She became the titular leader of the movement against school reform based on standardized-test accountability systems and school choice after the 2010 publishing of her book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” This appeared on her blog, and she gave me permission to republish it.
By Diane Ravitch
Robert Natelson, a retired constitutional law professor who is allied with the ultraconservative Heartland Institute, writes in this opinion article that the Supreme Court may well strike down the state prohibitions on public funding of religious schools — known as “baby Blaine Ravitch: Why the Supreme Court should not force the public to pay for religious schools - The Washington Post:

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