Allowing the creation of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts in Arizona where students can channel funds towards religious or nonsectarian private schools may have become more of a Pandora’s Box with yesterday’s Supreme Court Espinoza vs Montana Department of Revenue ruling that said that state governments can not discriminate against sectarian private schools that apply for state funding.
This ruling potentially blurs the separation of church and state.
How will this affect Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Program where Republican leaders Karen Fann and Russell Bowers “filed an amicus brief” with the United States Supreme Court supporting Espinoza?
Not much, according to Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Mirror who wrote, quoting Tim Keller, one of the attorney’s for the Espinoza side :
“Where the high court’s ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue could affect Arizona is if there were ever legislation or a ballot measure to bar religious schools from participating in those programs.”
With the Supreme Court ruling, it will become more difficult for a Democratic legislature or future Democratic Governor or a Citizens Ballot Initiative to pursue reform measures to stop religious private schools from being able to access public funds through the Empowerment Scholarship Program.
Dawn Penich-Thacker, the Cofounder and Communications Director for Save our Schools Arizona sees the potential gorging of more public dollars by families going to sectarian private schools as well. She commented:
“Arizona taxpayers have long been forced to fund religious education through Empowerment Scholarship Account vouchers, so the real impact to Arizona is mostly in terms of motivating even more proliferation of schemes that defund public schools and use tax dollars in discriminatory and unaccountable ways through the future creation of new or different voucher programs. It’s never been more important to elect a legislature of anti-privatization representatives.”
“Public dollars going more than ever to private, religious schools that discriminate and lack accountability of tax dollars and academic standards do not help Arizona compete and succeed. When a private school voucher program defunds the public schools serving 95% of Arizona families and delivering 100% accountability of tax dollars, we all lose.”
One of this country’s founding principles is the Separation of Church and State.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling has made it easier for religious zealots in Arizona to tear down that separating wall by siphoning more public dollars, through the Empowerment Scholarships, to sectarian schools.
Public Dollars should not go to religious schools in this state or any other.
This country is based on inclusive Democratic and Republican governing values.
Not theocratic ones.
The Supreme Court, in its 5 to 4 ruling erred yesterday.