An Historic Moment for School Choice

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments in the potentially landmark case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenges a state constitutional amendment marked by religious bias. Pioneer Institute filed amici curiae briefs both urging the SCOTUS to hear the case, and then on behalf of appellant, Kendra Espinoza (pictured above with her two daughters), after the Court decided to hear it. Pioneer co-hosted a November forum at Harvard University with Ms. Espinoza, her daughters, and her attorney, Erica Smith of the Institute for Justice.

The state amendment in question is a so-called, 19th-century “Anti-Aid,” or Blaine amendment. These amendments prohibit public resources from flowing to individuals to send their children to religiously-affiliated schools, and were designed to prevent Catholics and immigrants from receiving the kind of education that would enable them to become successful.

In the Espinoza case, Kendra Espinoza, a suddenly-single mom, sought a better education for her daughters. In public school, one daughter was bullied and the other struggled in her classes. Both would later thrive in the parochial school Kendra chose.

Ms. Espinoza’s decision to send her daughters to Stillwater Christian School caused her family financial difficulties. Her access to needs-based state education tax credit-funded scholarships for her children was eliminated after the Montana Supreme Court struck down the state’s legislatively established education tax credit program. The basis for the Montana court’s decision was the state’s 130-year-old Blaine amendment.

Massachusetts is one of 38 states with Blaine amendments. The Commonwealth was among the first states to adopt such an amendment, and it is generally considered the most restrictive in the country.

The first of the two Anti-Aid amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution was the work of the virulently anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party, which came to power in the state elections of 1854, after a wave of Catholic immigrants arrived in the Commonwealth during the Irish Potato Famine. The Bay State adopted a second Anti-Aid amendment to its Constitution in 1917.

While the money for scholarships the Espinoza family accessed came from private sources, the Montana Innovative Education Program Credit provided donors to the program with tax credits for their contributions. According to the Montana Supreme Court, the Blaine amendment prevented Ms. Espinoza’s children from using state education scholarship funds to access a religiously-affiliated school.

For well over a decade Pioneer Institute has highlighted this important legal and educational topic through research, events and op-eds. In 2018, Pioneer produced a 30-minute documentary, “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws,” that chronicles the struggles of four families in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Georgia, all states with Blaine amendments, to send their children to parochial schools.

Learn more about how you can help end bigoted education laws!

Related Posts

Derrell Bradford on the Future of Education Reform

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Bob Bowdon is joined by guest host Alisha Thomas Cromartie, personal growth coach, education leader, and former Georgia state legislator. They talk with Derrell Bradford, Executive Vice President of 50CAN, about the future of education reform.

Montse Alvarado on Protecting Religious Liberty in Schools & Society

/
Montse Alvarado of the Becket Fund joins The Learning Curve podcast this week to discuss Becket's work to protect religious liberty in K-12 education, the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court school choice case, and more.

Lance Izumi on How Charters Are Meeting Diverse Learning Needs

/
Happy New Year! This week on "The Learning Curve," Cara and Bob talk with Lance Izumi, Senior Director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute, about his new book, Choosing Diversity.

Steven Wilson on Anti-Intellectualism in K-12 Education

/
Co-host Bob Bowdon talks with Steven Wilson, Founder and former CEO of Ascend Learning, a charter school network in Brooklyn, New York. They discuss the emergence of anti-intellectualism in K-12 schooling.

Jason Bedrick on Religious Freedom & Private School Autonomy

/
Bob and Cara talk with Jason Bedrick, EdChoice’s director of policy, about New York’s controversial “substantial equivalency” proposal that would give the state Department of Education oversight of school curricula at yeshivas and other private and parochial academies.

Join Us Nov. 21st: "U.S. Supreme Court Case – Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue"

/
Please join Pioneer Institute, the Institute for Justice, and Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance for a discussion about the potentially landmark school choice and religious liberty case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut on State-Driven K-12 Reform

/
New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut joins "The Learning Curve" podcast this week, plus Bob & Cara break down the new NAEP results, and share education stories out of Denver and Detroit.

Education business ruled by teachers’ unions truly terrifying

/
This op-ed originally appeared in The Worcester Telegram &…

The Learning Curve: Andrew Campanella, President of National School Choice Week

/
This week on The Learning Curve, Bob talks with Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week and author of the new book, "The School Choice Roadmap: 7 Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child."

Dr. Howard Fuller on School Choice & Presidential Politics

/
Cara and Bob talk withthe the great Dr. Howard Fuller, Distinguished Professor of Education, about his passionate activism on behalf of education reform, his concerns about the lack of support among Democratic presidential candidates for charter schools & more!

VIDEO: Making a Difference Through METCO

A new video about the METCO program centers around the friendship between two Wayland High School students; one who lives in Wayland and the other from Boston. It also features interviews with METCO CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas and Mabel Reid-Wallace, Director of Wayland's METCO program.