New Hampshire families can celebrate! The Supreme Court removed religious barriers to school choice initiatives with its recent decision in the Espinoza case, ruling that a school choice scholarship program in Montana could not discriminate against schools on the basis of religion. The same decision struck a blow against long-standing state constitutional provisions known as Blaine Amendments that forbid state aid to religious schools while allowing aid to other non-public schools.
New Hampshire is one of more than thirty states with a Blaine Amendment in its constitution. These amendments are 19th-century relics of anti-Catholic bigotry, and the Supreme Court has now acknowledged that these laws are discriminatory and wrong.
New Hampshire’s own education tax credit scholarship program provides a tax credit to businesses that donate to a privately-administered fund that awards school choice scholarships to New Hampshire students in grades K-12. 523 Granite State kids from low- and moderate-income families benefited from those scholarships in the 2019-2020 school year.
The Espinoza case arose from a 2015 Montana education tax credit law where the Montana Department of Revenue said the funds could be used by students to attend any school of their choice except private religious schools. Litigation began almost immediately. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Montana Family Foundation said, “This decision was a huge victory for Montana kids and clears the way for Montana to join 42 other states that allow students the freedom to choose a school that fits them best….When options in education become numerous, kids win, parents win and taxpayers win.” (Note: The Montana Family Foundation, along with Cornerstone, is part of a 40-state family policy council alliance.)
“It was high time for the Blaine Amendments to bite the dust,” said Diana Verm, senior counsel at The Becket Fund representing three families in the case. “Our Constitution requires equal treatment for religious people and institutions. Relying on century-old state laws designed to target Catholics to exclude all people of faith was legally, constitutionally, and morally wrong. The Court was right to kick the Blaine Amendments to the curb.”
The Supreme Court decision in Espinoza clears the path for all parents to be able to choose schools that align with their values, and that’s great news for New Hampshire families.