U.S. Supreme Court decision important victory for educational freedom

In a big win for students and parents, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an opinion today in Carson v. Makin that grants more educational freedom to families.

The High Court ruled that Maine’s education program violated the constitutional rights of students because it prevented families from using their taxpayer-funded education dollars to access private religious schools while allowing the funds to be used at private schools.

Free exercise clause

The Court’s ruling today doesn’t require the state to fund religious education, according to Chief Justice Roberts, but because Maine has chosen to provide funding for private schools, “it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

Two years ago in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, Chief Justice Roberts made a similar conclusion in his majority opinion. “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Ohio school choice program that includes private and religious schools, stressing that:

[W]here a government aid program is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance directly to a broad class of citizens who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge under the Establishment Clause.

Today’s decision adds on to the series of cases in recent years where the Court affirms the importance of educational freedom and that, under the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an educational choice program passes the constitutionality test if it includes religious neutrality and private choice.

As explained in a report by the the Institute for Justice:

Religious neutrality means that religious and non-religious providers of educational services may participate in the program. And private choice means that parents are free to decide whether to participate in the program and, if so, to select among those providers. As long as educational choice programs have these two features — and every current educational choice program does — they pass muster under the First Amendment.

American Experiment celebrates the U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal ruling today and will continue to push for educational reform legislation in Minnesota that affirms parents’ education rights and prioritizes students over systems.