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School Choice on trial, Walker testifies

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 26, 2019

MADISON — Former Gov. Scott Walker is weighing in on what could prove to be a landmark case for school choice and religious liberty.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), on behalf of Walker, has filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the U.S. Supreme Court. The case in question is Espinoza v. Montana, in which the Montana Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the state’s student-aid driven school choice program. In so doing, the court cited the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment, which prevents Montana from using public funds to aid religious organizations, including private religious schools.

Three parents asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state court ruling and hold that the government may not, consistent with Religion and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, “invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools,” according to WILL’s press release.

Walker, a Republican who as governor presided over the state-wide growth of Wisconsin’s parental school choice program, argues that states may not discriminate against religion in withholding opportunity for students. The brief urges the Supreme Court to overturn one of its prior opinions that upheld a Washington scholarship program that prohibited funding to be used to pursue a theology degree.

Some 14 states have broad interpretations of Blaine Amendments, “archaic anti-Catholic laws that restrict state funds from going directly or indirectly to religious organizations,” according to WILL. “This essentially prevents school voucher programs in those states.”

“The Montana case before the United States Supreme Court represents hope and opportunity for millions of families across the country who wish to choose where and how their children are educated,” the former governor said. “School choice works as shown in Wisconsin where more than 40,000 students are part of the program. The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to take a stand for religious freedom and the right of parents to make their own school choices.”

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