• Morgan Craven, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • March 2020 •
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a school voucher-related case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The plaintiffs, three Montana families, sued the Montana Department of Revenue after it placed limits on a state program that gave dollar-for-dollar tax credits to people who donated to private scholarship funds.
Because some of the scholarships were used to support students who attended religious schools, the Montana Department of Revenue determined that providing tax credits for those particular donations violated the state’s constitutional ban on giving state aid to religious schools or churches. The department prohibited use of the scholarships at religious schools.
The issue before the U.S. Supreme Court now is whether it is a violation of the religion and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution for a state to invalidate a financial aid program that happens to provide support for students who choose to attend religious schools. The Trump administration supports the Montana program and similar tax credit programs and even proposed a similar $5 billion annual federal program.
Voucher systems, even indirect ones that provide tax credits rather than direct financial support to families, divert critical public funds away from public schools. Instead of providing resources to public schools for programs, infrastructure and facilities support, and much-needed personnel, schemes that allow private use of public money diminish already-stretched resources. IDRA and others across the country will continue to monitor and weigh in on legislation and litigation that impact fair school funding for public schools.
[©2020, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2020 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]