Supreme Court lets ruling stand in Maine school voucher case.

Now for a bit of good news. The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Separation of Church and State in Maine by not taking up a court case filed by the “Institute for Justice” over whether or not school vouchers could be used for religious schools. A lower court had ruled that using vouchers for religious schools would be a violation of the Establishment Clause and the Supreme Court let that ruling stand:

School districts in 145 small towns in Maine that have no high schools currently offer tuition for 17,000 students to attend high schools of their choice, public or private, in-state or out-of-state. But religious schools are no longer on the list. Maine’s school system dates back to 1879.

In 1980, the state attorney general said the program violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The Maine Legislature made it law in 1983.

Last April, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that restrictions on tuition vouchers are a valid, constitutional enactment. The court said the state attorney general and the legislature were motivated by a desire to respect and comply with the Constitution rather than any religious hostility.

Dick Komer, the senior litigation attorney for the Institute for Justice, said Maine is engaging in blatant government discrimination against parents who choose religious schools and that it is “appalling that the nation’s highest court” lets it continue.

Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

10 thoughts on “Supreme Court lets ruling stand in Maine school voucher case.

  1. I haven’t been following this case, so I don’t know much about the details. Not to rain on your warm and fuzzy parade, but a failure to grant cert is not the same as a ruling.  Although for practical purposes it has the same effect for the time being.

  2. Good point, Consigliere.  Wet blanket.  wink

    But it IS good news to me, nevertheless.  The “discrimination” argument is so bogus that it just makes my eyes cross.  Would these people know discrimination if it bit their @$$es off? 

    “Discrimination” is what goes on with funding for inner city and rural school districts.  Where I live, the state gov’t. attempts to smooth out the discrepancies are still quite evident. 

    A minimum standard of education should be guaranteed, no question of that, but if someone explicitly chooses to put little Johnny in a private school, that’s their choice and can they do it on their own nickle.  I don’t care if it’s a prep-school snobbatorium or a madrassa.

  3. Looking forward to an analysis of it.  If it’s as straightforward as what Les has presented the ruling sounds like BS.

  4. Very bad. Very, very bad. Personally, I wouldn’t send my children to a religious school. But I am a huge fan of the voucher system. Alternate schools are the only chance that a modern child has of an education. Refusing to honor a voucher because the school is religious is wrong.

    -Bob

  5. I whole heartedly disagree. Tax payer money is not supposed to be used by religious organizations to promote religion. Religious schools, by their very nature, are going to include religious indoctrination. Unless you can convince them to stick to a strictly secular curriculum then founding them with taxpayer money is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with Les on this one. I’ve never been a fan of the voucher system. We tried a voucher system in the Abilene area a few years ago and it was a disaster. The curriculum of private schools in the area weren’t regulated by the state and the result was a graduating class that, on average, scored lower on the SAT/ACT than any other class in the past 30 years. Not only that, but funding for public schools in the area dropped significantly and as a result, those schools were forced to make serious budget cuts. I know because I was still in high school when the program began and our school alone suffered budget cuts that were so great our Theatre Arts/Band department had a measley 5,000 expense budget for EVER trip we made. That meant that the studetns shelled out roughly 40,000 to maintain our trip schedule. All that aside, the majority of religious private school in the area FORCED their students to attend religious ceremonies. I’m not one to point out the turd in the punch bowl here, but 2+2=4 and if government money is used to fund a school whose primary motivation is religious education, then you’ve pretty much violated/raped the establishment clause.

  7. Religious schools, by their very nature, are going to include religious indoctrination. Unless you can convince them to stick to a strictly secular curriculum then founding them with taxpayer money is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

    You’ve offered your opinion as a statement of law.  That opinion is wrong under the existing case law.  The Supreme Court has already held that a legislature may include parochial schools in a voucher system.  See Zelman v. Simmons-Harris  That is why I was saying that the failure to grant cert in the above case does not equal a ruling.  That is, it does not overrule the Zelman case. 

    It was my initial reaction that the Court, in deference to federalism, will let the states decide the issue individually.  The Court has not spoken on the exclusion of parochial schools though.  Rather, it has chosen not to speak on that issue.  In its refusal, it appears (I say appears, because that is all that it is-educated observers guessing) that both including and excluding parochial schools is constitutional and the Court will defer to the legislature’s choice.

  8. Oddly, this is one area where I just down have a problem with government and religion mixing. I think parents should have a right to choose how their child will be educated (within reason, some standards may apply) and if we’re going to use a voucher system then a parent should be able to go to a parochial school if they choose.

    Actually, let’s go one step further. Figure out the average cost of a public school education and put it in a trust fund for every child. The parent can decide which school the kid goes to, takes full responsibility for the decision, pays the extra costs out of pocket if it’s an expensive school and if the child can’t pass a standardized exam (basic skills, development problems excepted) then the parent has to pay back the cost of the education.

  9. I meant to add:

    both including and excluding parochial schools is constitutional and the Court will defer to the legislature’s choice.

    And will likely piss both sides off.  That is usually an indicator that the Court has got it right.

  10. In New South Wales – Oz we have a system of Government/State schools, Non-Gov’t schools, Selective High Schools and creative and performing arts high schools.
    We (Bathurst) also has a University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education) college.
    Each and every school is sponsored by the government to some degree or other.

    Of course, I’m in complete disagreement with non-government schools getting any part of the taxes I no longer pay, directly.
    I don’t know the formula they use to gauge how much each school should get.
    On the one hand I reckon each child should have a dollar figure attached to him/her and which ever school they go to, get the money.
    On the other hand, I don’t agree with any religion being foisted into young impressionable minds and the state being a sponsor of it.
    If pushed, I’d have to land to the side of separation of church and state.
    Isn’t it a shame children have to pay for parental desires.  wink

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