American Federation for Children Statement on Supreme Court Taking Up Montana School Choice Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted certiorari in the Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue case which centers on an educational choice tax credit.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children:

“We are incredibly pleased to learn that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this fall on the Montana tax credit scholarship case, which could fundamentally alter the landscape for school choice across the country. This could be the most impactful Supreme Court case since the pivotal Zelmandecision in 2002, which ruled that state-level voucher programs are constitutional. This Montana case has the opportunity to definitively establish that religious schools cannot be excluded from school choice programs by virtue of their religion due to Blaine Amendments established in 37 states beginning in the 19th century.

“The Liberty Justice Center, on behalf of the American Federation for Children, filed an amicus brief discussing the critical implications of the Espinoza case for thousands of school-choice students and family across the country. The amicus brief focused on helping the Court understand why this case is important to vulnerable students and to the diversity of our education system.

“All kids deserve to have an abundance of K-12 educational options, and vulnerable and lower income children deserve education freedom the most. We hope the U.S. Supreme Court case will definitively rule on the unconstitutionally restrictive and discriminatory Blaine Amendments throughout the country, and end their destructive reign.”

Details on Blaine Amendments from the Institute for Justice:
https://ij.org/issues/school-choice/blaine-amendments/

“Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools. Today, opponents of educational choice employ Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons with which they attempt to block modern educational choice programs. However, IJ is pursuing a legal strategy to eliminate these obstacles to educational freedom. This opportunity arises from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. In that case, the Court stated that excluding qualified institutions—like schools—from public benefit programs solely because of their religious affiliation is “odious to our Constitution . . . and cannot stand.” IJ believes this opinion is a death sentence to Blaine Amendments, which have been invoked by teachers’ unions and their allies for decades to try and prevent choice programs from spreading and generating widespread reform. IJ’s cases in Montana, Maine, and Washington State are designed to drive our arguments up to the U.S. Supreme Court and to vindicate the right of all parents to access meaningful educational options.”

The amicus brief from the Liberty Justice Center and the American Federation for Children can be found here:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/18/18-1195/96476/20190415134225514_SCOTUS%20Brief%20Final%20w%20Cockle%20edits.pdf