A SCOTUS Victory for Private School Choice
Once again, the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld a parent’s right to choose a religious private school, even if the tuition is being paid for with public dollars. The Carson v. Makin case arose from a town tuitioning program that has been in place in Maine since the 1800s. Town tuitioning allows small, rural towns that don’t have the resources to support their own high school to pay tuition for high school students to attend private schools. Maine parents had been able to choose a religious or a secular school until 1981, when choosing a religious school was banned.
Similarly to the Trinity Lutheran Church case in Missouri and the Espinoza case in Montana, the court held that allowing students to take their public dollars to a religious school of their choice does not establish an official state religion any more than using a Pell grant at a religious university does. The ruling does not require states to fund school choice. But, if they have a school choice program, they may not exclude religious schools from participating.
Beginning this fall, qualified Missouri families can apply for an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) to be used to pay for, among other things, tuition at a private school. Five of the six approved Education Assistance Organizations (EAOs) that will be disbursing the scholarships are religious. The latest Supreme Court ruling should put to bed any questions as to whether anyone should take issue with that.