This seems to be getting surprisingly little buzz, but Utah’s governor just signed into law what looks to be the broadest, most sweeping voucher program in the country. The vouchers are progressive—the less you make, the large the voucher your kids are entitled to—but the plan will ultimately absorb at least some of the cost of private schooling for any students who want to avail themselves of it. The remaining hurdle is a potential challenge under the state constitution: Utah is one of several states with “Blaine amendments, products of anti-Catholic sentiment meant to bar any subsidy to religiously affiliated organizations, however neutral in form. But the Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman confirmed that programs of this sort don’t offend the federal Establishment Clause, and in light of that ruling, there’s a pretty strong case to be made that any state-level provision purporting to exclude all and only religious schools from such programs would run afoul of the Free Exercise clause, as it would entail that schools forfeit access to public resources by adding a religious component to an otherwise eligible curriculum. There’s also a separate education provision mandating that the state provide public education “free from sectarian control,” but again, there seems to be a perfectly natural reading on which a voucher program passes muster so long as the state also continues to provide secular public schooling.
Utah Shows Big Love for Private Education
February 14th, 2007 · 1 Comment