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Supreme Court arguments suggest bright future for parental school choice

The Supreme Court’s arguments are positive for parents who choose parental school options


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The fact that justices of the Supreme Court are attempting to stop state attempts to exclude families who choose to use school choice in order to send their children into religious schools is good news for supporters of school freedom. No matter if a family plans to send their child to a religious or secular school, freedom from school should be available to all. 

Carson v. Makin is the case before the court., pits Maine parents who want to use the state’s voucher program to send their children to religious schools against a 1980 decision by Maine’s attorney general denying families that option. 


The state’s counsel faced a grilling from the justices, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh saying, “I don’t see how you’re suggesting that the subsidy changes the analysis. This is discrimination on religious grounds at this neighborhood level. 


In keeping with its recent decision, the court continues to be skeptical. It has stopped states from exempting families that want vouchers or other school-choice programs to send their children religious schools. 

Chief Justice John Roberts aptly summarized the court’s philosophy in his majority opinion for Espinoza v. Montana, “A state need not subsidize private education. However, a state cannot exclude some private schools simply because they practice a religious faith from its decision to do so. This is exactly what Maine wants to do. The court should stand firm and uphold school freedom. 

The parental school choice movement would win a major victory if the ruling was for parents. 

Defenders of the Maine law try to wiggle out of this by arguing that a distinction between “religious status” and “religious use” allows the state to discriminate based on use, but this distinction is an illusion. Use and status are inseparable and interconnected. 

Under the state’s argument, a Christian charity could be barred from receiving government funds because their decision to operate a soup kitchen is religiously motivated. Justice Neil Gorsuch directly addressed this issue in his concurrence in Espinoza, arguing, “Calling it discrimination on the basis of religious status or religious activity makes no difference: It is unconstitutional all the same.” 

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Both Maine families who sued the state argue that children of all ages should have equal access to schools. Right now, they are financially unable to do that because they can’t participate in the state’s school choice program. The families’ lawyers rightly argue that the state is forcing religious parents “to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit.”  


Parents would love a ruling in their favor. This is a big victory for parental school choice. The pandemic caused prolonged lockdowns that forced parents to review their children’s educations and force them to leave failing schools. The preliminary research shows that lockdowns and restrictions may cost students $61,000 in lifetime earnings and the economy about $150 billion a year.  

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Families should be offered flexible education options as a way to encourage children to return to school. Each child is different, so children who have been affected by pandemic lockdowns would benefit from private schooling where they could receive individualized instruction. Unfortunately, many families can’t afford tuition at private schools and feel trapped in public schools, which are currently straining under a teacher shortage.  

There is evidence to support the effectiveness of school choice programs. Greg Forster at the Friedman Foundation evaluated dozens of studies on school choice. The Friedman Foundation’s Greg Forster concluded that “empirical evidence” supports choice. He said, “choice improves academic results for both participants and public school students, saves taxpayer dollars, allows students to be more integrated in classrooms and increases civic values and practices which are essential to American democracy.” Another study by the Urban Institute concluded that students participating in a voucher program were more likely than their peers to graduate high school and attend college. 


Most Americans support expanded school choice; a recent poll found that 74% of voters support school choice programs. Strong results and widespread support mean that all states should consider parental choice programs. 

A chance for the Supreme Court’s to make a statement in support of parental school choice. This will be heard all across America. The ruling for the families will open the way for strong parental choice programs to help every family take charge of their child’s education. 



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