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Supreme Court Decision in Education Case Imminent

Supreme Court Decision in Education Case Imminent

Blaine Amendments and Rights of Families to Direct Their Children’s Education at Issue

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A decision in the case Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue is expected within the next 30 days and could fundamentally alter education governance in the US. At issue is the constitutionality of Montana’s Blaine Amendment, one of 37, that was enacted explicitly to discriminate against Catholics in the 1800s, in favor of protestant-influenced public schools.  The effect is that states that wish to enact scholarship programs to help parents pay for non-public schools are often held unconstitutional citing Blaine amendments. The discriminatory history of “Blaine Amendments,” which was fiercely debated and acknowledged at oral arguments which took place on January 22, 2020, highlights the case’s potentially extraordinary ramifications nationwide for parent rights’ and their ability to secure the best education possible for them.

The Center for Education Reform (CER), joined by 16 other groups, filed an amicus brief, authored by Kirkland and Ellis partner and former Solicitor General Paul Clement, citing numerous court precedents that should compel the High Court to overturn Montana’s decision against the parents who filed suit to retain a scholarship program that the Montana legislature had enacted to support education opportunity. As he argues:

“…parents—not the government—have both the fundamental right and the high calling to direct the education and upbringing of their children…Denying parents the ability to send their children to a desired school simply because that school is religiously affiliated directly implicates First Amendment concerns…The Free Exercise Clause “‘protect[s] religious observers against unequal treatment’ and subjects to the strictest scrutiny laws that target the religious for ‘special disabilities’ based on their ‘religious status.’” 

With the Supreme Court not able to hear oral arguments in other cases, the decision may very well be decided before the expected date in June. If the Court rules for Kendra Espinoza and against Montana’s Blaine amendment, and if it is a broad enough decision that it would apply to other Blaine amendments around the country, the result could be dramatic for expanding education opportunity. Countless American students will be given new opportunities to obtain and continue a quality education. Thousands on both sides of the issue are waiting eagerly for a decision.

If you are interested in discussing education, the case or Blaine Amendments please contact CER at pr@edreform.com or @edreform on Twitter.


 * * For more information about Espinoza v. Montana and the significant history of the “Blaine Amendment,” visit CER’s BLAINE INFORMATION HQ or peruse “The Problem With The Blaine Amendment”  by CER Founder & CEO Jeanne Allen (The Huffington Post, August 2017) * *