The state of Maine operates a unique tuition voucher program that is designed to help children living in areas without public schools access a high school education.
This program provides funding for kids to attend public schools and some private schools, but not religious schools. In other words, families who want their kids to attend a religious school are forced to pay for it themselves.
In the 2018 case Carson v. Makin, three families sued the state and rightly argued that the voucher program is unfairly biased against religious schools. The families sought tuition reimbursement for children attending Temple Academy and Bangor Christian School.
The appeal was defeated by the US District Court for the District of Maine in January and again by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in October. Both courts upheld DOE Commissioner Pender Makin’s opinion that public dollars be restricted to secular schools.
“As the Commissioner of Education, I am charged with the responsibility of ensuring that public funds allocated for education in Maine are spent within the legal and intended use of those funds,” argues Makin. “I am pleased that the court has recognized the lawfulness of our fiscal stewardship.”
“The Court recognized that because the only purpose of Maine’s program is to replicate the education that a student would receive at a public school, Maine is not discriminating based on the religious status of any private school,” adds Attorney General Aaron M. Frey. “Rather, Maine is simply declining to pay for religious instruction that would be unavailable in a public school.”
The parents challenging Maine’s biased law plan to take the case to the Supreme Court, which could very well reverse the lower courts’ decision with its 6-3 conservative majority.
Author’s Note: Bias against religious schools is unconstitutional and we can expect the Supreme Court to side with the families.