The idea of vouchers that would permit students to use public money for private schools is a surprisingly controversial subject. In part, this is because the leftist teachers’ unions have done a great job of portraying public schools as the only honorable use of taxpayer education dollars. They vehemently oppose vouchers for private schools.
Recently I wrote here on PJMedia about a case before the Supreme Court regarding a public grant possibly being used for a religious institution. The Washington Post now writes that the case could have much wider ramifications:
Trinity Lutheran is “one of the most important religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court in years,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, who headed a rally outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
“A loss here at the Supreme Court could mean that religious nonprofits could be excluded from government programs meant to serve the community. This is like telling the fire department they couldn’t put out a fire because it’s at a church,” Nance told the crowd at the rally.
Many speakers at the demonstration — as well as Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer — raised the same fire department question, wondering why a prohibition on the government cutting a check to a church would not also mean a prohibition on basic safety services.
That’s the sort of dire outcome that Christian activists see as a possibility if the preschool loses the Supreme Court case. If the preschool wins, they also foresee consequences far beyond a playground grant.
“This will mean good things for the school choice movement in our country,” said Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Several organizations of Christian schools at the rally hoped for a broad Supreme Court decision, striking down Missouri’s ban on state funding for religious institutions — a ban similar to policies in more than 30 other states. That would increase the likelihood of states granting funding for school vouchers that children could use at religious primary and secondary schools, they say.
Since the new secretary of Education is a big supporter of vouchers, a win may actually pave the way for vouchers to be used for religious schools. As things generally stand, current voucher programs may only be spent on secular private education. If the Court rules that public money can be granted to religious institutions, then school choice may greatly expand.
Particularly in areas like the South where so many private schools are religious, this is a monumental case.