The Supreme Court came down heavily in support of religious education when it ruled today that a Montana voucher program that excluded religious schools was unconstitutional. I’ll write more later, but for now, here are a couple of points:
First, the decision doesn’t have any immediate impact on vouchers in Indiana. The Hoosier state, like Montana, has language in its constitution that bars state aid for religious institutions. But the Indiana Supreme Court got around the provision by reasoning that vouchers go to parents, not private schools.
That 2013 decision enabled Indiana’s voucher program to grow. In 2019, it served over 36,000 students in more than 300 schools – nearly all of them religious schools – at a cost to the state of $172.8 million.
Second, while the Supreme Court said states can’t bar religious schools from getting vouchers, it didn’t say that states are required to have voucher programs.
“A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
In other words, there’s nothing in the decision to stop Indiana legislators from canceling the misguided voucher program altogether. And that’s exactly what they should do.