On Friday afternoon right before the holiday weekend, the Institute for Justice declared another major victory for school choice. They represented several Montana families against the state Department of Revenue in a case involving a tax-credit scholarship program. This win recognizes that parents can direct their children’s education to select either a religious or secular private school under the program.
Montana’s tax-credit scholarship is similar to New Hampshire’s in that it accepts private donations for low-income students which may be used for tuition at private schools. NH’s program, administered by the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH and the Giving and Going Alliance, also may be used for home education expenses.
Various funding mechanisms including tax-credit scholarships and education savings accounts empower parents with choice and do not directly fund schools. More courts are recognizing the distinction of parents determining how those funds are utilized.
“…the ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs.”
” The ESA is neutral in all respects toward religion and directs aid to a broad class of individuals defined without reference to religion. The ESA is a system of private choice that does not have the effect of advancing religion.”
“Once the public funds are deposited into an education savings account, the funds are no longer ‘public funds’ but are instead the private funds of the individual parent who established the account. The parent decides where to spend that money for the child’s education and may choose from a variety of participating entities, including religious and non-religious schools. Any decision by the parent to use the funds in his or her account to pay tuition at a religious school does not involve the use of ‘public funds.’”