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.
AFT “so far” pumps $600,000 into School Board Race
Remember the Douglas County School Board race? The Toxic-Trio, tire scraps, Blaine Amendments, and what not? Of course you do. The Doug Co race has been one of Colorado’s most eminent issues for months. Well, mail-in ballots have arrived in homes, and with just minutes to go in the bottom of the ninth, the nation’s second largest teacher’s union has made a desperate attempt to sway the outcome of the election in its favor. The Douglas County School Board race has garnered much national attention–and rightly so. It will not only determine the fate of private school choice in Douglas County, but could determine the constitutionality of Blaine clauses in Colorado. It’s a pivotal moment in education, which is why the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is adamantly attempting to manipulate the election to fit its political agenda. Ross Izard, senior policy analyst at the Independence Institute and my favorite policy nerd, details the recent uncovering of an additional 300,000-dollar donation AFT made to the Douglas County race (after its initial 300,000-contribution) in his op-ed A national teachers’ union’s war machine is on the move in Colorado, which was published in The Hill. In total, AFT has donated 600,000 dollars to […]
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 […]
Trinity Lutheran Gets Its Day in Court
This week is a big week in the world of education law. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up its first case related to state constitutional Blaine clauses. We talked about these ugly little pieces of constitutional language in some detail last week when I highlighted the Independence Institute’s new paper, Blaine’s Shadow: Politics, Discrimination, and School Choice. Check out that paper if you need some historical background on Blaine clauses and what they mean for education today. Before you ask, the court isn’t considering the Dougco voucher case tomorrow. We’re still waiting to find out whether SCOTUS will hear that one. Instead, the high court will hear oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran v. Pauley, which deals with a Blaine-related case out of Missouri. We’ve talked about that case in passing over the year or so since I wrote about it in detail, but a refresher is probably in order. From my previous post: Here’s the skinny: Missouri runs a program under which organizations can apply to the state for grants. That’s not unusual. But here’s the trick: these “grants” do not come in the form of money. They come in the form of scrap rubber. That rubber is used […]
History! Blaine's Shadow Tells an Important Story
James G. Blaine. You’ve heard that name before, right? Of course you have. I’ve written about Congressman Blaine a number of times, usually in the context of Douglas County’s ongoing legal battle against so-called “Blaine Amendments” through its first-of-its-kind local voucher program. Or maybe I should say programs (plural), as the district’s other voucher program made things pretty complicated for a while before a debatable court decision and a new decision by the board put an end to most of the legal craziness. But while we’ve talked a fair amount about Blaine and the state constitutional clauses named after him, I’m not sure we’ve ever really known the full story. There’s a lot of important history and drama and politics buried behind the simple narrative that most folks just don’t know. Ross Izard, my favorite policy nerd, set out to tell that story—and to explain why it matters from a constitutional perspective—in his most recent issue paper, Blaine’s Shadow: Politics, Discrimination, and School Choice.
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.
New Dougco Ruling Stretches Logic, Hampers Choice
Yesterday, we celebrated the continuing success of public school choice by taking a look at some very encouraging findings in Colorado’s public charter school sector. I mentioned in the post that despite the rapid expansion of charter schools, demand is far outstripping supply when it comes to school choice—there are thousands of students on charter waiting lists and in lottery pools across the state. Yet even as I type this, between 10,000 and 15,000 seats sit empty in Colorado private schools. Each of those seats represents the opportunity to change a student’s life, but that doesn’t stop choice opponents from fighting tooth and nail to shut down any attempt to open the door to those opportunities. Sadly, these opponents scored another win against choice in Douglas County last week when 2nd Judicial District Court Chief Judge Michael Martinez—the very same judge who blocked the original Dougco voucher program in 2011—ruled that the district’s new local voucher program, which excludes faith-based schools, is still bound by the Colorado Supreme Court’s sweeping 2015 ruling under Colorado’s Blaine Amendment.
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 […]
Independence Institute Stands Up (Again) for Tenure Reform
I have double good news for my fellow policy nerds on this fine Thursday morning. First, the Colorado State Board of Education voted yesterday to continue disaggregating student subgroup data for accountability purposes. I had some rather strong thoughts on the issue, so this decision makes me smile. The conversation will continue, and, if Chairman Durham’s comment in the official CDE press release is any indication, may even lead to some thoughtful new approaches. In the meantime, I’m pleased to know that we won’t be sweeping challenging populations of students under the rug or compromising taxpayer accountability to satisfy the edu-blob. Maybe even more exciting, though, is the fact that the Independence Institute has fired its next salvo in the war to protect teacher tenure reform in Colorado.