Will SCOTUS ruling in Carson v. Makin affect Wisconsin? 

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Tuesday’s ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Carson v. Makin case, a big win for school choice, may have implications for religious choice schools here in Wisconsin.

In its ruling, the court struck down a law in the state of Maine that excluded schools providing religious instruction from a voucher program that allowed parents in areas with no public school to send their kids to private schools. “Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the court’s opinion on the case. He was joined by five other justices in the opinion.

The ruling spotlights the so-called Blaine Amendments around the country, including in Wisconsin. Blaine Amendments get their name from a proposed, but ultimately failed, amendment to the U.S. constitution sponsored by James Gillespie Blaine (R-Maine), the U.S. House of Representatives minority leader in the 1870s.

The Blaine Amendment in Wisconsin’s constitution reads: “nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries.”

Thirty-seven U.S. states have provisions similar to that. Blaine Amendment watchers have seen the provisions by court weakened by rulings over the years. This current ruling further weakens Blaine, but doesn’t drive a stake into it, according to some watchers. Others say the ruling does finish off Blaine.

On another, related front, school administrators in Wisconsin are wondering if the case will have any effect on how religious schools, including religious choice schools, can use certain government funding, including funding governed by Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Schools have reached out to School Choice Wisconsin on this matter.

School Choice Wisconsin will be providing more detail going forward on the ruling’s bearing on these matters.

 — School Choice Wisconsin

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