On June 21, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a rare decision supporting Christian institutions. The case was Carson v Makin, in which the court decided that the state of Maine could not discriminate against schools with a religious affiliation. Maine had a tuition aid program for nonsectarian private schools but barred faith-based schools. The Supreme Court invalidated that rule saying, “The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools – so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion.” This decision overturned a 2019 ruling by the U.S. District Court of Maine.
This is a complicated issue. As a retired public school teacher, I know the problems created when tax money is divided, so public schools get less funding. The point is not whether tax money should go to private schools but whether, if money is taken away from the public schools, who should get it. Parents who don’t want their kids in public schools desire the option of having their tax money go to a school of their choice.
The problem is that public schools get poorer, and teacher quality goes down. Years ago, I gave a lectureship in a public school that competed with several private schools. The public school was a mess. The restrooms hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks, there were rats in the building, and the furniture was in disrepair. The students in that school were from low-income families. The more affluent families sent their kids to private schools with better funding, a superior environment, and better teachers. The private schools expelled the kids with discipline problems, sending them to the public schools.
The Carson v Makin ruling is a victory for church-affiliated schools, but the problem for public education continues. The Supreme Court’s decision is not over how to manage education but how to eliminate discrimination against Christianity.
— John N. Clayton © 2022