Supreme Court: Montana Can't Exclude Religious Schools From Scholarship Program
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montana's exclusion of religious schools from a state scholarship program funded by tax credits violates the Constitution.
The 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's other conservatives, is a victory for parents who wanted to use the state tax credit to help send children to religious schools.
The decision is also a victory for conservative religious groups and advocates of school choice who challenged Montana's "no-aid" provision in the state constitution.
The case began in 2015 when the Montana Legislature passed a bill providing a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for individuals who donate to organizations that provide scholarship money to students in private schools. An organization called Big Sky began raising money to fund these scholarships, using the tax credit as an incentive. Of the 13 schools that got scholarship money from Big Sky, 12 were religious schools. Indeed, 70% of all private schools in Montana are religiously affiliated.
Ultimately, the Montana Supreme Court struck down the entire tax credit program for all private schools, religious and nonreligious alike. It said the tax credit conflicted with the state constitution, which bars all state aid for religious education, whether direct or indirect, including tax subsidies like this one.
School-choice advocates then sought to revive the scholarship program, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, backed by the Trump administration — including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who, as a private citizen and as a Cabinet member, has advocated for what she calls "faith-based education."
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