Maine’s town tuitioning program is nation’s second-oldest school choice program
INDIANAPOLIS—EdChoice, a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs, applauded the U.S. Supreme Court for accepting a case, Carson v. Makin, that presents the question of whether it violates the Constitution when states exclude families from generally available student-aid programs simply because they send their children to schools that provide religious instruction.
The case originated out of Maine, where town tuitioning—which allows students who live in towns that don’t have district public schools to receive their per-pupil education dollars to pay tuition at a neighboring town’s public school or a private school of their choice—began in 1873. The state’s program was open to religious schools for more than a century before the state’s attorney general changed the policy without any clear direction from courts or public demand.
In October 2020, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a religious exclusion in Maine’s tuition assistance program for high school students. In February 2021, the Institute for Justice petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review of the 1st Circuit decision upholding the religious exclusion.
“We applaud the action of the Court in agreeing to hear a case brought by parents in Maine who have been denied the opportunity to send their children to a school of faith using the state’s town tuitioning vouchers,” said Leslie Hiner, head of EdChoice’s Legal Defense and Education Center (LDEC). “We will stand with the Institute for Justice in supporting these parents at the Supreme Court.”
You can read more about the background of the case from the Institute for Justice here.
You can listen to an EdChoice podcast about the case here.