Pioneer Institute Files Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Hear School Choice Case

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

Claims amendment to Montana Constitution motivated by anti-Catholic bias

Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org

BOSTON – Pioneer Institute today announced that it has submitted an amicus curiae urging the United States Supreme Court to hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenges a state constitutional amendment marked by religious bias.

The amendment in question is a so-called Blaine amendment. It prohibits public resources from flowing to individuals to send their children to religiously affiliated schools, preventing 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 children would later thrive in the parochial school of her choice.

Ms. Espinoza’s decision to send her daughters to Stillwater Christian School was not easy and caused her family financial difficulties. Her access to a badly needed scholarship was denied after the Montana Supreme Court struck down a legislatively established education tax credit program. The basis for the court’s decision was the state’s 130-year-old Blaine amendment.

While the money for the scholarships the Espinoza family accessed came from private sources, the Montana Innovative Education Program Credit provided the donors with tax credits for their contributions. According to the Montana Supreme Court, the Blaine amendment prevented Ms. Espinoza’s children from gaining access to the scholarships.

“Acts motivated by religious animus violate the first and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” said Cornelius Chapman, an attorney and the author of “The Know-Nothing Amendments: Barriers to School Choice in Massachusetts.” “Even if they appear neutral on their face, they are impermissible if designed to persecute or oppress a religion or its practices.”

Legislative history and press coverage of efforts to enact a national Blaine amendment in the 1870s show that Catholicism was clearly the target of amendment proponents.

Sadly, anti-Catholic bias still animated a majority of Congress in 1889, when the enabling act authorizing Montana to form a state constitution required that it include a Blaine provision. The clause forced on Montana by an anti-Catholic Congress exists to this day in substantially unaltered form.

“Kendra Espinoza, like so many other parents, sought the education that best suits the needs of her children,” said Pioneer’s Executive Director Jim Stergios. “It is hard to believe that an amendment steeped in anti-Catholic bias still stands in her way 130 years after its passage.”

Massachusetts was the first of 38 states to adopt Blaine amendments. Two amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution are 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 Pioneer brief was filed April 12, 2019. It was drafted by a team led by Michael Gilleran of Fisher Broyles and Professor Dwight Duncan of the University of Massachusetts School of Law. They were assisted by Harvard Law School students Annika Boone, Benjamin Fleshman, Anastasia Frane, James McGlone and Grant Newman.

The Court is expected to announce whether it will hear the case by early summer.

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. View the film here.

[ytp_video source=”Aeki7AUwB8o”]

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

Get Updates on Our School Choice Research

Related Posts

AFC’s Denisha Merriweather on School Choice Advocacy & Black Minds Matter

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Denisha Merriweather, the director of public relations and content marketing at the American Federation for Children and founder of Black Minds Matter. They discuss Denisha’s inspiring personal narrative, from a struggling student to a leading national spokesperson for school choice.

Accelerating Learning at KIPP

KIPP Academy Charter School is working hard to ensure that all students have access to high-quality instruction, especially as children everywhere struggle with post-COVID learning recovery. In this video, KIPP Academy Executive Director Nikki Barnes and KIPP Academy Lynn Middle School Principal Jimmy Seter allowed us into their in-depth discussion of the principles, objectives and strategies they use to foster an environment of encouragement, informed guidance, learning growth, and equity. 

Study Finds Continued Growth in Education Tax-Credit Scholarship Programs

Education tax credits grew increasingly popular in 2021, with four more states enacting programs.  There are now 28 tax-credit scholarship (TCS) programs in 23 states, and they serve more than 325,000 students, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

EdChoice’s VP Leslie Hiner on Landmark SCOTUS Decisions for School Choice

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Leslie Hiner, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Director of Legal Defense & Education Center with EdChoice. They discuss the the landmark U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Brown v. Board of Education, among the most important in the nation’s history, and how Brown’s call for racial access and equity in K-12 education has helped inform the work and advocacy of the school choice movement.

Linda Chavez on Hispanic Immigration, Assimilation, & Civic Education in America

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Cara Candal talks with Linda Chavez, a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum and the author of Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation. 

Parent Advocate Virginia Walden Ford on Civil Rights, School Choice, & the D.C. Voucher Program

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with Virginia Walden Ford, education advocate and author of Voices, Choices, and Second Chances, and School Choice: A Legacy to Keep. She shares her experiences growing up and desegregating high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in the mid-1960s, and the lessons she carried forward in her school choice advocacy in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Campanella on National School Choice Week

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Andrew Campanella, the president of National School Choice Week. They discuss why 2021 was called the “Year of School Choice,” and the implications of more academic options for K-12 education reform across America.

Study Finds Massachusetts Would Benefit from Adopting Education Savings Accounts

Massachusetts provides fewer options for students to be educated outside their assigned school districts than most other states do, and educational savings accounts (ESAs) offer an effective tool for giving students additional opportunities, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

AEI’s Ian Rowe on School Leadership, Civic Education, & Upward Mobility

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption.

Virtual Learning Grows During COVID

Virtual learning in K-12 education continues to grow due to the health threat caused by coronavirus variants and the assistance this learning model can provide to at-risk students, according to two papers released today by Pioneer Institute.

Institute for Justice’s Michael Bindas on the SCOTUS Oral Arguments

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, who represents the lead plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Carson v. Makin.

Pioneer Institute Files Amicus Curiae Brief in U.S. Supreme Court School Choice Case

Pioneer Institute has filed an amicus curiae brief in Carson v. Makin urging the Supreme Court of the United States to strike down a provision of Maine law. The Court will hear oral arguments in Carson this morning (December 8) at 10 am. The Maine law being challenged allows districts that don’t have their own schools to contract with a school or pay for students that choose to attend public or private schools, but explicitly excludes religious schools.

Urban Institute’s Dr. Matthew Chingos on the Year of School Choice & the Student Loan Debt Crisis

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Matthew Chingos, who directs the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute. They discuss the “Year of School Choice,” the welcome 2021 trend of states across America expanding or establishing private school choice programs; as well as the student debt crisis in higher education.

Lipan Apache Tribe’s Pastor Robert Soto on Native American Heritage Month & Religious Liberty

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Pastor Robert Soto, a Lipan Apache religious leader and award-winning feather dancer who has successfully upheld his Native American cultural heritage and religious liberties in federal courts. As the country celebrates Native American Heritage Month, Pastor Soto shares his personal journey as a religious leader and describes the Lipan Apache Tribe.

Maine Tries to Ignore a Clear Supreme Court Ruling on Education

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up Carson v. Makin, the facts are clear. Maine has chosen to subsidize private education. As such, it cannot disqualify all religious schools from receiving public dollars under its school choice program.

Match Charter Public School Founder Mike Goldstein on School & Teacher Prep Reform

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Mike Goldstein, the founder of the MATCH Charter School and MATCH Teacher Residency in Boston.

ASU’s Julie Young, Virtual Schooling Pioneer, on Digital Learning during COVID-19

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Cara Candal talks with Julie Young, ASU Vice President of Education Outreach and Student Services, and Managing Director of ASU Prep Academy and ASU Prep Digital. They discuss the implications of COVID-19’s disruption of American K-12 education and the future of digital learning.

The Institute for Justice’s Michael Bindas on the SCOTUS, Carson v. Makin, & Expanding School Choice

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice (IJ). They discuss IJ’s 2020 landmark U.S. Supreme Court win in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, and its implications for state Blaine Amendments, bigoted legal barriers that have blocked religious liberty and school choice for over a century, as well as the Maine school tuitioning case, Carson v. Makin, which was recently granted certiorari.