BETSY DEVOS WILL ALLOW RELIGIOUS GROUPS TO APPLY FOR CHARTER GRANTS
One of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration is the never-ending fight for America’s children. In education, that fight has been for religious freedom in K-12 and on college campuses, defining sex in K-12 as a male or female, encouraging patriotic education in K-12, granting due process for anyone accused of sexual harassment, and the list goes on. One of the Trump administration’s most fundamental goals has been to give parents the right to choose where their children could attend school, a goal on which they have never wavered. Now the Department of Education is making a giant leap to make school choice a reality.
At a forum in Kentucky, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos dropped a bombshell when she declared, “Prohibiting religiously affiliated public charter schools is unconstitutional.“ More recently, she stated that she would no longer enforce the decades-old prohibition associated with the use of taxpayer money for religious charter schools. Recent Supreme Court cases have given hope for religious charter schools. The administration is willing to seize this window of opportunity to move forward with giving parents the option of school choice for their children.
Secretary DeVos is not afraid of a fight and most likely will have one on her hands. She has proven her mettle by weathering over 455 lawsuits since taking office in 2017. Besides being a fighter, she has several Supreme Court cases and at least three Supreme Court justices in her corner to help with her vouchers and school choice proposals.
In June, with a five-judge majority, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in favor of a Montana mother using a tax credit program to pay for her children’s education in a religious school. Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue paved the way to pass new voucher programs and defend them against legal challenges. The second case involved a religious private school in Missouri. The court ruled that Missouri could not bar religious private schools from receiving public money for playground resurfacing because they were religious. In a third case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), the Supreme Court held that school choice scholarships were constitutional and could be used for religious schools and other private schools.
The majority of states have Blaine amendments in their constitutions that prohibit taxpayer money for religious education. Justice Clarence Thomas has never favored the Blaine Amendment and has stated, “This doctrine, born of bigotry, should be buried now.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Samuel Alito have expressed their objections to the Blaine Amendment as a relic of religious bias since its purpose was to prevent Catholics coming to America in the 1800s from using tax money to finance their schools.
It’s no surprise, the two prominent teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are vehemently opposed to school vouchers for any purpose. AFT president Randi Weingarten, one of Joe Biden’s possible appointees for Secretary of Education, criticized school choice when she said that under no circumstances should taxpayer money be diverted away from public education resources.
Regardless of the dissenting voices, education in America is undergoing significant changes. In Indianapolis, candidates on the November ballot who favored charters and school choice won all four seats for a local school board election. Tax-credit programs like the one in Montana are now in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire. Parents are now more aware of diverse ways to educate their children and are demanding alternatives to failing public schools.
Now is an opportune time for President Trump and Secretary DeVos to stand for vouchers and school choice. The fight ahead may be rigorous, but the outcome will be healthier families and a better America.
About the Author: Nancy Huff is an educator with a mission to equip believers to pray strategically for the Cultural Mountain of Education. She has authored Taking the Mountain of Education: A Strategic Prayer Guide to Transform America’s Schools. She leads prayer groups to pray at key educational locations across the US. Currently, Nancy serves as the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network (HAPN) Lead Prayer Coordinator for the Mountain of Education. For additional information go to: https://takingthemountainofeducation.com/author/nancyahuff/
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