In 2017, the Town of Croydon implemented a town tuitioning program. While getting approval from the State Board of Education, it was told that no religious schools could be included in the program.
Why? Because, in a spasm of anti-Catholic sentiment, 38 states including New Hampshire adopted some form of the Blaine Amendment in their constitutions, so that only the Protestant religion could be taught in government-run schools. In the case of NH, Article 83 was amended to include this: “No money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.”
In a recent case, Espinoza v. Montana, the US Supreme Court pointed out once again what should have been obvious to everyone by now: What matters isn’t where the money comes from, or where it goes. What matters is who chooses where it goes. In particular, if a parent chooses a school, and tax money pays for it, that’s not the state giving tax money to the school. It’s the state giving tax money to the parent, who then spends it on the school.
The Court in its decision said: “A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
This is good news for school districts that do town tuitioning, or that are considering it, because the range of choices just expanded in quantity, and increased in quality. St. Paul’s School, Dublin Christian Academy, Mount Royal Academy, and so on, are among the best schools in the state, and they often charge substantially less than public schools. (Mount Royal charges about half the per-student cost of public schools in the surrounding area.)
That’s good for students, parents, and taxpayers.
As school enrollments decrease, more districts are going to find that town tuitioning is their best alternative to keeping under-populated schools open, or consolidating with other school districts. For some towns, it can provide a way to escape the gravitational pull of a failing school system that has successfully fended off efforts at reform.
Even though it remains part of the state constitution, New Hampshire’s Blaine Amendment is effectively dead. It will take some time to formally repeal it, but while that’s happening, there’s no reason for school districts to wait to add private religious schools to town tuitioning programs that they already have, or are considering in the near future.