School choice groups ask Supreme Court to hear Colorado voucher case

The U.S. Supreme Court (Wikimedia Commons)

Four school choice advocacy groups are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case that found the the Douglas County, Colo., school voucher program unconstitutional.

The school district is looking to use the case to strike a blow against constitutional restrictions on school choice.

In an amicus brief filed this week, the Goldwater Institute, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options and the American Federation for Children are calling on justices to consider the district’s arguments, which may help bring states’ Blaine Amendments under scrutiny by the nation’s highest court.

“The educational opportunities of millions of American schoolchildren are jeopardized by the Blaine amendments,” Clint Bolick, the vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, said in a press release.

Blaine Amendments, which restrict the use of public funding for religious or “sectarian” institutions, are present in at least 37 state constitutions, and are currently being cited in cases seeking to terminate programs in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Nevada.

In their brief, the groups note the amendments are most likely to affect vouchers and other programs that are funded directly through state budgets. (Tax credit scholarships, they note, may be a different story.)

They argue:

The educational opportunities of millions of American schoolchildren are jeopardized by the Blaine amendments. The adoption of such amendments, in some states as a condition for statehood and in others as the result of anti-Catholic bigotry, divides the nation into states where robust school choice including school vouchers is possible and others where it is limited or prohibited. Because of the number of states and children who are affected, and the important stakes for educational opportunities, it is extremely urgent that the Court address the constitutionality of Blaine amendments.

The Douglas County Public School District filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court back in October. If the district prevails, the high court could end the use of Blaine Amendments by school choice opponents to block school choice programs. Getting justices to hear the appeal remains the district’s next hurdle in the case.

Catholic Schools, Courts, School Choice, Vouchers