School choice is still a big issue

School choice is still a big issue

School choice is still a big issue

A district court in Maine has been asked to halt a law that prevents Christian schools from participating in the state's school choice program.

Lea Patterson of First Liberty Institute explains that parents who live in rural areas without a high school can send their children to the public or private schools of their choice, as long as they are not religious. She says the Supreme Court ruled against that discrimination last year.

Patterson, Lea (First Liberty) Patterson

"In anticipation of that Supreme Court ruling, the state passed a new law which effectively prohibits religious schools like our client, Bangor Christian [School], from teaching from their religious perspective if they participate in that program," Patterson details.

According to First Liberty, Maine's attorney general, Aaron Frey (D), showed extreme hostility toward Bangor Christian by facilitating the law, which Patterson says "is designed to continue to exclude these religious schools from the program notwithstanding the Supreme court decision."

"Maine lost at the U.S. Supreme Court just last year but is not getting the message that religious discrimination is illegal," she adds.

First Liberty will argue that excluding Bangor Christian from the program violates the Free Exercise, Establishment, and Free Speech Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has signed H.B 1 into law a bill, making his state the fourth so far this year to establish universal school choice.

The head of the Florida Education Association complains the new law will siphon billions away from public education and leave schools short-staffed, but Walter Blanks of the American Federation for Children says that is far from the truth.

Blanks, Walter (AFC) Blanks

"They're only taking the state dollars, a portion of the state dollars, with them," he relays. "That public school is still getting local and federal dollars. If you're a parent and you pull your kid out of the public school, you still have to pay for that public school, regardless of the results. So, on average, when it comes to per pupil spending, public schools actually receive more."

The new law reportedly gives the Florida governor another legislative victory to reference as he is expected to launch a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination later this year. Blanks sees it as a plus for school choice in general.

"It was a big issue in the 2020 election," he recalls. "It's good to see legislators and governors back school choice."

The previous school choice program was only available to low-income students; the new law expands eligibility for the program to all students.