The U.S. Supreme Court today handed a victory to those seeking to divert money away from public schools and expand voucher programs. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Montana must reinstate a voucher program and allow parents to use their vouchers at religious as well as secular private schools.
“Let’s be clear about what we’ve witnessed with today’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue—an extreme Supreme Court just joined the far-right effort to undermine one of our country’s most cherished democratic institutions: public education,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.
She continued, “At a time when public schools nationwide already are grappling with protecting and providing for students despite a pandemic and mounting budget shortfalls, the court has made things even worse, opening the door for further attacks on state decisions not to fund religious schools.”
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, ““If, for 250 years, we have drawn a line at forcing taxpayers to pay the salaries of those who teach their faith from the pulpit, I do not see how we can today require Montana to adopt a different view respecting those who teach it in the classroom.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the ruling “perverse” in her dissent. “Without any need or power to do so, the Court appears to require a State to reinstate a tax-credit program that the Constitution did not demand in the first place.”
Eskelsen García said that the decision will make it harder for states to refuse pressure from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ to use tax dollars to fund private religious schools.
“If this country is serious about improving education, it must start with providing every public school student with the resources and tools they need to succeed,” she said. “Instead, DeVos’ voucher schemes divert already scarce dollars from neighborhood public schools and funnel those funds to private schools, which are not accountable to taxpayers. DeVos’ myopic mission has nothing to do with helping students, but it has everything to do with privatizing public goods and services for private profit.”