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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. June 21, 2022 – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a 6-3 decision in Carson v. Makin that brings America one step closer to taxpayer-funded religious schools that may discriminate against some students based on how they learn or who they love.
The justices ruled that the state of Maine must fund religious education at private schools. In doing so, the Supreme Court said that declining to underwrite overtly religious instruction is unconstitutional discrimination. In short, the court has interpreted the First Amendment for the first time to say that if taxpayer funds are made available for any private uses, they must include overtly religious uses. In education, this will probably mean that if a state funds school voucher programs or charter schools, those vouchers may be used at religious schools and charters that proselytize to students. These schools will be as eligible for public funding as those with non-religious curricula.
In response, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said:
“All Minnesota students deserve the freedom to feel safe and welcome in a great public school in their community. Today, the Supreme Court continued to chip away at that freedom by undermining inclusive public schools in favor of private religious schools, even if those schools underperform and discriminate against students and their families based on who they love or if they have special learning needs.
“The radical majority of the Supreme Court is in the process of one of the most sweeping rewrites of the social commitments of our society in modern American history, including that foundational idea that publicly funded education should be free, uniform and open to all without discrimination or religious doctrine. It’s time for Minnesotans to stand up and vote in November for the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, legislators and school boards who will defend the schools we love and protect the democracy we revere.”
In Carson v. Makin, the case was brought on behalf of those seeking public tuition for students to attend religious schools that were excluded from the Maine program. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers filed a joint amicus brief with its state-level affiliate, the Maine Education Association, and other labor unions and organizations, arguing that Maine’s school funding program is constitutional.
About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.