SCOTUS protects religious liberty in major school choice case
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major win in Carson v. Makin in a ruling that says the state of Maine cannot bar parents from using state funds to send their children to a religious school.
In 2018, parents sued Maine after it banned families from sending their children to private schools using state tuition assistance.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “a neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause.”
The high court’s decision reverses the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
This is excellent news for school choice and religious liberty throughout the country. Parents should never be prevented from directing their children’s education and sending them to whichever school best suits their needs.
School choice is really educational freedom and is a parent’s right and should not be determined by the state. Every child is different, and we should let parents, who know their children best, decide where to send them to school.
Wisconsin is currently a national leader in school choice. Parents can choose the public school in the district where they live, or they can opt for open enrollment and enroll in a school in a different district, with some exceptions. Charter schools and virtual charter schools are also included under the public-school umbrella.
Wisconsin also offers the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program, and the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program—all of which are part of the “voucher school” option. These programs allow income-qualified families to send their children to private schools participating in Choice (voucher) Programs. Parents can apply to be part of a school choice program.
This voucher program, which was first-in-the-nation, years ago went to the WI Supreme Court over allowing religious schools and received a favorable decision. At the time of the court case, only the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was in place.
The decision to expand the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to include private religious schools “places on equal footing options of public and private school choice and vests power in the hands of parents to choose where to direct the funds allocated for their children’s benefit,” wrote Justice Donald Steinmetz in the majority opinion.
Wisconsin also has some of the best homeschooling laws in the country. Parents are encouraged to homeschool and are not burdened by overbearing restrictions as they are in some states.
While Wisconsin is leading the nation in educational opportunities, we have more to do. We need universal choice in Wisconsin. Incomes and zip codes should not determine who gets to take advantage of our educational options. However, our current governor is no fan of school choice.
We are currently in an election cycle, and this fall we have the opportunity to hold Gov. Evers accountable and elect leaders who will uphold parents’ right to school choice.