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In Espinoza v. Montana, educational opportunity & parental rights at stake as SCOTUS reviews constitutionality of discriminatory “Blaine Amendments”

New Mexico one of 37 states with Blaine Amendment on books, threatening education choices for NM families most in need

NEW MEXICO — On January 22, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear the most monumental case involving both education and civil rights in more than 60 years — Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue — in which state-level “Blaine Amendments” could finally be struck down after nearly 150 years of undermining equal opportunity in education and First Amendment rights.

The Center for Education Reform (CER) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Kendra Espinoza and the other plaintiffs last year. It was joined by a dozen other organizations and civil rights leaders. *READ IT HERE*

“The stakes truly don’t get any bigger than this,” said CER founder and CEO Jeanne

Allen. “If justice prevails and all Blaine Amendments are struck down, then hundreds of thousands of students in lower-income families nationwide will be free to obtain or continue a quality education without fear of having it taken from them because of an outdated relic from a prejudicial past—which is tragically what occurred in Montana.”

The significance of the high court ruling in favor of Espinoza is that legislatures would then be able to enact programs providing parents the opportunity to use tax dollars allocated for their children’s education at the schools they choose, including religious schools. In every state with a Blaine Amendment on the books, the government currently retains the power to deny families of lesser means certain educational options that other families enjoy.

The author of the CER amicus brief, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement (2004-2008), emphasized the following:

“For many parents, this is not about choosing a religious school, but about choosing the right school for their child and his or her learning needs. Well-off parents have the ability to make that choice, and if they have multiple children, they often pick different schools for the different learning needs of each child. But parents like Kendra Espinoza and her fellow petitioners aren't able to exercise that right. That’s what this case is truly about.”

For families in New Mexico, theirs is one of the 14 states operating under the strictest of Blaine Amendments, which severely restricts educational options for students throughout the state. New Mexico families by far have the most to gain from an Espinoza victory.

“In every Blaine Amendment state, overturning the 19th century amendment would open up endless possibilities for students to receive the kind of 21st century education they need and deserve in this global economy,” added CER’s Allen.

Following the case’s likely decision in June, lawmakers in all 37 Blaine Amendment states are poised to enact corresponding legislation in the event of an Espinoza victory.

For in-depth information about Espinoza v. Montana and the true history of the Blaine Amendment, visit CER’s online resource bank here.

OTHER USEFUL LINKS:

THE HILL: The 7 big Supreme Court cases to watch in 2020

THE ATLANTIC: The Court Case That Could Finally Take Down Antiquated Anti-Catholic Laws

A Decision 144 Years In the Making: CER’s exclusive podcast with Kendra Espinoza

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