Indiana Supreme Court Rules School Vouchers Don’t Violate Blaine Amendment

choice

Recently here in North Dakota we had a debate over school choice policies and how they relate to archaic, bigoted language in the state Constitution banning state funding for “sectarian schools.” Unfortunately, the state legislature rejected both the school choice legislation introduced by Rep. Mark Dosch and a constitutional amendment introduced by Rep. Bette Grande which would have removed the language, called a “Blaine amendment.”

Democrats, and a contingent of Republicans, argued against Dosch’s school choice bill by claiming that it would be unconstitutional under state law. Rep. Dosch argued that his legislation passes constitutional muster (video of my interview with him here).

It seems likely that Rep. Dosch is right. In Indiana, which also has a “Blaine amendment,” the state Supreme Court just ruled that school voucher legislation is constitutional.

The full opinion is here. From a summary of the opinion:

[T]he court rejected claims that the program violates provisions of the Indiana Constitution regarding education and religion. The court emphasized that Indiana’s Constitution does not intend to prohibit religious institutions from receiving indirect government services, “such as fire and police protection, municipal water and sewage service, sidewalks and streets,” but only prohibits expenditures directly benefiting such institutions. The direct beneficiaries of the voucher program are not the schools but those eligible families who are free to select which schools to attend.

Rep. Dosch’s was constructed in the same way, having parents initiate payments to private schools when they notify the school districts of their decision to opt-out of their public school.

Of course, we have no assurances that the North Dakota Supreme Court would rule similarly, but those who carried on as though the courts striking down Dosch’s bill was a certainty were wrong.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • camsaure

    The judges in the Indiana Supreme Court most likely have much more integrity then the judges in ND Supreme Court.

  • Game

    For what it is worth, The Indiana public schools already operate much like private schools Parents in Indiana are expected to purchase books for their children (much like college students are) I have a friend who pays around $600 per year for her two boys to get books for the “public” school system.

    Parents who cannot afford are expected to go to a private charity (often a church) in order to find funding.

  • Eric Wittliff

    I was excited to see how they got around “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution” (pg15). From what I understand the court viewed that because the framers did not mean that the church could not get service (Like water) from the state the state giving the church money for them to do services is the same thing. No! WTF?

    It is hard to accept there Substantially/ Direct test. What do they think the construction means? Using there idea the state could hire a Muslim church to police the state, or Amish church to house people. There might be a way around it but this is not it.

    A plain text reading is more likely. “No MONEY shall be drawn from the treasury…”

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