On June 30, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that parents can receive aid from the government even if they send their children to a private school. This ruling goes back nearly 150 years.
In 1875 Republican Congressman James Blaine of Maine proposed an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the use of state funds at “sectarian” schools (i.e. religious and private schools). The amendment did not pass on the federal level. Regardless, certain states adopted Blaine Amendments in their own state constitutions to ensure that children went to public schools. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito explains, “the amendment was prompted by virulent prejudice against immigrants, particularly Catholic immigrants.” Public schools then and now, were not neutral on matters of religion. In 1875 Public schools “were culturally Protestant and with curriculum[s] and textbooks that were, consequently, rife with material that Catholics and Jews found offensive.”
The importance of this ruling cannot be understated. Programs such as textbook loaning, free breakfast, free busing, and tuition assistance through scholarships are prohibited in states with Blaine Amendment type legislation. Such programs and assistance enable tax paying families, particularly those with lower income, to send their children to schools of their choice. As a result, parents and children are not forced to attend underperforming schools simply based on their zip code address or their amount of wealth. This is especially important for Catholics given the increasingly radical progressive ideologies in public schools that contradict Church teaching.
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