The last week of June was important in many ways for advocates of school choice. At the federal level, the US Supreme Court, according to Qartz, “made rulings on two cases in Missouri and Colorado that, while concerning small issues within specific school districts, likely have massive ramifications on the country’s entire public and private education systems alike.”
The Missouri case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, involved a church-run school alleging a violation of rights because they were excluded from receiving taxpayer funding. The majority opinion states, “the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”
SCOTUSblog reports, “several members of the court emphasized just how narrow they understood the Trinity Lutheran decision to be. In a footnote, three justices explained that the case involves only ‘express discrimination based on religious identity’ and only ‘with respect to playground resurfacing’” and has nothing to do with taxpayer funding being directed to religious schools for the purposes of education.
The case in Colorado – which was actually three cases (Doyle v. Taxpayers for Public Education; Douglas County School District v. Taxpayers for Public Education & Colorado State Board of Education v. Taxpayers for Public Education) – however, was about whether or not taxpayer funding could go to non-government run schools. The US Supreme Court vacated the judgment and sent the cases back to the Colorado Supreme Court for further consideration.
It is a stretch to say that either decision at the Supreme Court was a “victory” for advocates of school choice. However, there was one legitimate victory for advocates of school choice, and it involves the small New Hampshire town of Croydon. Croydon, like many small towns in NH, doesn’t have their own High School; so their students are sent to one in a neighboring town. The Concord Monitor reports, “The matter first kicked off in 2012, when the town voted to end its exclusive contract with Newport schools, where for decades the town had sent their students after they graduated from Little Red [the nickname of the one-room Croydon Village School]. After a transition year, the school board instituted a school choice program, paying a set tuition amount to the school of a family’s choosing.”
In 2014 the State Department of Education told the Croydon School District to cease the practice of sending tuition to the Newport Montessori School. WMUR reports, “The three-member board, led by two libertarian activists and a parent whose children attended the Montessori school, refused.” Before the situation could play out entirely in the courts, the New Hampshire Legislature stepped in to pass a law authorizing any town with no public school to “execute a contract with any approved nonsectarian private school approved by the school board as a school tuition program.”
WMUR reports, “This victory means Croydon can continue to send kids to the Montessori at a cost of $8,200 dollars per student — almost $5,000 less than it costs to send them to Newport Middle School.” Adding, “Advocates for the public education system said the new law is fundamentally unfair.”
Opponents of the government-funded school system would retort that the current system of funding schools is unfair to those without children, to those with children who wish to opt-out of the government-run education system, and to those who simply oppose the coercive nature of government. Regaining local control over education is certainly a good first step towards real education freedom; however the taxpayer funded mechanism for schooling needs to be abolished.