Education: What’s next after high court ruling on religious schools?

Though not as high-profile as gun and abortion cases decided by the US Supreme Court this term, Tuesday’s ruling in Carson v. Makin could significantly impact public schooling in the United States over time.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that Maine must include religious in its unique town tuitioning program, which offers public funds to families to attend schools of their choice if they live somewhere with no public schools for their students’ grade level or contracts with nearby school districts. The state had previously excluded “sectarian” religious schools until the court struck down that law, calling it “discrimination against religion.”

Why We Wrote This

The Supreme Court’s decision this week about state funds going to religious schools raises questions about the future of public education and whether more taxpayer money could eventually fuel a wide array of schooling options.

The decision is causing both excitement and consternation. Effects of the ruling could range from more families opting out of local, to more tax dollars being spent on religious education, to public schooling and a growing list of alternatives continuing to delicately coexist.

“This [case] already is a rallying cry for folks interested in defending public education and the value of public schools in American life, ”says Michael Graziano, an expert on religion and education at the University of Northern Iowa. “I also think this is absolutely a huge win for the school choice movement.”

Public education is navigating enrollment declines, shaky parental trust, and sizable learning losses. This week the US Supreme Court added another factor to the rocky educational landscape: a ruling that permits more public funding to flow to religious schools.

Though not as high-profile as gun and abortion cases decided by the justices this term, Tuesday’s ruling in Carson v. Makin could significantly impact schooling in the United States over time.

Some believe the very nature of secular public education is in play, and that’s causing both excitement and consternation. Effects of the decision could range from more families opting out of local schools, to more tax dollars being spent on religious education, to public schooling and a growing list of alternatives continuing to delicately coexist.

Why We Wrote This

The Supreme Court’s decision this week about state funds going to religious schools raises questions about the future of public education and whether more taxpayer money could eventually fuel a wide array of schooling options.

“This [case] already is a rallying cry for folks interested in defending public education and the value of public schools in American life. I also think this is absolutely a huge win for the school choice movement, ”says Michael Graziano, director of the Institute for Religion and Education at the University of Northern Iowa. “This continues a trend that this particular court has of trying to collapse public institutions into private ones or religious ones more particularly.”

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that Maine must include religious schools in its unique town tuitioning program. Maine, the most rural state in the US, has about 5,000 students who live in towns with no public schools for their grade level or contracts with nearby school districts. The state offers those families funds to attend public or private schools of their choice. The state had restricted the tuition funds to exclude “sectarian” religious schools until the court struck down that law.

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