Supreme Court Case Could Boost Religious Schooling

It's rooted in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 18, 2020 10:00 AM CST
This July 31, 2019 photo shows Stillwater Christian School parents Jeri Anderson and Kendra Espinoza at Woodland Park in Kalispell, Mont.   (Casey Kreider/The Daily Inter Lake via AP)
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(Newser) – A Supreme Court that seems favorable to religion-based discrimination claims is set to hear a case that could make it easier to use public money to pay for religious schooling in many states, the AP reports. The justices will hear arguments Wednesday in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program for private K-12 education that also makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. Advocates on both sides say the outcome could lead to efforts in other states to funnel taxpayer money to religious schools. Montana is among 37 states that have provisions in their state constitutions that bar religious schools from receiving state aid. The Legislature created the tax credit in 2015 for contributions made to certain scholarship programs for private education.

The state's highest court had struck down the tax credit as a violation of the constitutional ban. The scholarships can be used at both secular and religious schools, but almost all the recipients attend religious schools. Kendra Espinoza of Kalispell, Montana, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, said the state court decision amounts to discrimination against her religious freedom. "They did away with the entire program so that no one could use this money to send their kids to a religious school," she said. For Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the Montana program is part of a nationwide, conservative-backed campaign against public schools. "This is a ruse to siphon off money from public education," she said.

(Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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