Supreme Court affirms parents' right to choose Catholic schools in school choice programs

Posted on June 30, 2020 in News

Parents win landmark victory in U.S. Supreme Court school choice case

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that parents have the right to choose any private school—religiously affiliated or not—for their children in a school choice program. In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a state court may not strike down a school choice program simply because it permits families to choose religious schooling. Not only is this a significant win for the school choice movement, it protects the constitutionality of Kansas school choice programs like CEF's Tax Credit Scholarship program.

The court ruling centered around a tax credit scholarship program, the most popular type of school choice program. CEF operates a Tax Credit Scholarship program for at-risk, low-income students in Northeast Kansas. The CEF Tax Credit Scholarship program provides a 70% Kansas state tax credit for donations to our charity, and funds more than 250 scholarships each year for students who attend area Catholic elementary and high schools.

This is a huge win for families in Kansas -- and across the nation. 

The high court ruling n Espinoza v. Montana Dept of Revenue will strike an end to discriminatory Blaine Amendments found in more than 30 state constitutions, including Kansas', which can restrict participation of religiously affiliated schools in educational choice programs. 

CEF has stood with with our friends in Montana during their dedicated effort to bring school choice to families who seek educational options that best fit their children's needs. 

Court decision paves way for educational opportunities for all

Under the program, a family receiving a scholarship originally could use it at any “qualified education provider,” which the court’s opinion noted means “any private school that meets certain accreditation, testing, and safety requirements."  All of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, where CEF operates, are accredited. 

The Supreme Court decision on religious schools removes one of the biggest obstacles to better educational opportunities for all children. States may no longer hide behind rules motivated by insidious bias against Catholics, known as Blaine Amendments, to exclude religious schools from public benefits.  Laws that condition public benefits, like need-based academic scholarships, on religious status demonstrate state-sanctioned hostility to religion, pressure people and institutions to censor their religious views, and stigmatize disfavored religions. 

The case began in 2015 when parents of children attending a religious private school were denied the opportunity to participate in a tax credit scholarship program in Montana. The parents sued, and a lower court ruled in their favor, holding that the tax credits did not violate the state constitution because they were not appropriations made to religious institutions. The state supreme court overruled that decision and ordered the entire program to be scrapped. The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned that decision and ratified parental choice programs.

"We're delighted that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with parents who want to choose the best school for their children, including religious schools,” said Libby Knox, CEF Director of Development and Tax Credits. "Parents deserve the right to choose the school that is best suited for their children's needs,"

Help us celebrate this important ruling on the constitutionality of parental choice in education. Consider a CEF tax credit donation today to fund scholarships to one of the outstanding schools in the Archdiocese by donating today.

Learn about all CEF scholarship programs
View a list of Catholic schools 

Put Catholic education within reach of every student.


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