Category Archives: United States Supreme Court

Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Releases Report on Colorado’s Blaine Clauses

A newly released report entitled “The Colorado Constitution’s No Aid To Sectarian Institutions Clause and its Impact on Civil Rights,” examines the origins of the Colorado Constitution’s No Aid Clause (known as Blaine Amendments), and the historical and modern applications.

The report was authored by members of the Colorado Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Independence Institute’s Research Director, David Kopel, serves on the committee as the Vice-Chair.

Nineteenth century Blaine clauses banned public dollars from supporting sectarian-religious organizations which society viewed unfavorably, including Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism, and Islam. Mainstream Protestant denominations were not considered to be sectarian.

The report details how the clause impacts civil rights in education, students with disabilities, higher education scholarships, and lists eight state-funded voucher-like programs that provide funding for programs at religious institutions.

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Summer break was exciting for school choice!

It has been a long summer break, but I’m back watching over education in Colorado!  And, oh my, what a summer it has been for school choice! On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 in favor of tire scraps. Huh?  Tire scraps? That’s right, tire scraps. A private, church-affiliated preschool in Missouri applied for the provisioning of tire scraps for playground resurfacing under a state grant program, but was turned down because of their church affiliation under the Missouri State Constitution’s Blaine clauses.  The school challenged the decision in court.  The case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, made it all the way to our country’s high court, which decided that First Amendment freedom of religion rights supersede the discriminatory Blaine clauses of Missouri’s State Constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means that just because the preschool was affiliated with a church, that should not prevent them from being eligible for the State’s tire scrap grant program. Okay, why should Colorado care about tire scraps in Missouri? In light of this ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to rule on another Blaine-related case—the case regarding Douglas County School District’s Choice Scholarship Program (CSP). Let’s back up […]

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What Might Gorsuch Mean for Education?

President Trump has always been a wild card. It’s been very hard to say what he would or would not do—and in some ways it still is. But one of the central promises of his campaign was that he would nominate a great justice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died tragically almost exactly year ago. To his credit, he has kept that promise by selecting Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s empty seat. Education is still a bit of a question mark when it comes to the Trump administration. There have been all sorts of rumors and ideas floating around, but none has yet coalesced into a cohesive vision of how the federal government will interact with K-12 education. The crystal ball is further clouded by Betsy DeVos’s sharply contested nomination to head the U.S. Department of Education. It’s been sad to watch the conversation about DeVos, a lifelong philanthropist who has donated her time and money to increasing opportunities for those who need them, devolve into a shouting match that sidesteps reality and avoids real conversations about what DeVos should or shouldn’t do should she be confirmed. As Rich Lowry wrote for National Review, “We now know that working […]

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So… What Happens Now? Thoughts on What President Trump Means for Education

Something happened last night. I was already in bed, of course, but I could hear strange shouting downstairs. I couldn’t quite make it out, but it sounded like someone saying, “Wisconsin?! What?!” This morning I found my dad still awake, sitting in an arm chair with bleary eyes and a strange expression that I’m not sure I’ve seen on his face before. It was weird. It was really, really weird. I am, of course, referring to Donald Trump’s utterly astonishing victory over Hillary Clinton in last night’s presidential election. He deserves a hearty congratulation for defying the political odds and, in the end, pulling off exactly the kind of map-changing, crushing victory he said he’d accomplish. Truthfully, I never thought I would write the words “President-elect Trump.” But here we are.

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Dougco's Voucher Lawsuit Muddle Explained

I got a lot of questions yesterday about yet another ruling on the Douglas County voucher program. Was this good news? Was it bad news? Which lawsuit was this anyway? What the heck is going on in Douglas County? It occurred to me after about the 50th question that stuff has gotten pretty complicated when it comes to vouchers in Dougco. We’re going to dedicate today’s post to clearing up the confusion. After all, there’s nothing worse than being perplexed over the weekend. Let’s start from the beginning. Most everyone probably remembers that the original Dougco voucher program was shot down by the Colorado Supreme Court almost a year ago thanks to our state’s icky Blaine Amendment. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the whole process was complicated by the tragic (in so, so many ways) death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the fact that SCOTUS had already taken a Blaine-related case out of Missouri. The case remains in limbo somewhere in the echoing hallways of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether it will hear the case at all. It will likely remain undecided for some time. But Douglas County didn’t want […]

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