PFPS Amicus Briefs

Carson v. Makin (U.S. Supreme Court)

PFPS filed an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the district and appellate courts in upholding Maine’s longstanding program allowing school districts with no public schools of their own to pay tuition to private schools that agree to provide secular education.PFPS’s amicus brief argues the Supreme Court’s own precedents, including its 1973 school funding decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, require rational basis review of Maine’s decision to limit its tuition program to secular schools. The brief avers that Maine’s tuition program easily satisfies such review because it fulfills Maine’s core interest in providing public education to students in districts without their own public schools by paying tuition at private schools that satisfy the state’s carefully designed criteria for an appropriate public education

PFPS earlier filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit arguing that inclusion of sectarian schools would undermine Maine's careful construction of a limited program to fulfill its constitutional duty to provide publicly funded education in the narrow circumstances where a traditional public school is not available. The brief also explained that expanding the tuition program to religious schools would divert taxpayer dollars from an already underfunded public school system and warned such expansion of the program would entangle the State in regulating matters of religion or effectively compel the State to fund discrimination.

PFPS had joined with the National Education Association and the Maine Education Association to file an amicus brief when the case was before the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (U.S. Supreme Court)

PFPS filed an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the decision of the Montana Supreme Court striking down a private school voucher program funded through tax credits. PFPS's brief provided important historical context from Montana's 1972 constitutional reform process, demonstrating that the Montana Constitution's no-aid provision, which prohibits state funding of religious schools, was motivated by a desire to ensure limited state funds are used only to support Montana's public schools. The brief also summarized peer-reviewed studies consistently showing that voucher programs negatively affect student achievement and explains that the research cited in amicus briefs from pro-voucher groups suffers from critical flaws.

Bishop of Charleston v. Adams (U.S. District Court, South Carolina)

PFPS, along with the Southern Education Foundation and the Advancement Project National Office, filed an amici curiae brief urging the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina to uphold the state constitution’s no-aid clause prohibiting public funding of private schools. Contrary to the plaintiffs’ claims that enactment of the no-aid clause was motivated by anti-religious and racial prejudices in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the amici explained that private school voucher programs prohibited by the no-aid clause were born directly out of racial animus in the mid-twentieth century and continue to exacerbate racial segregation in schools. The district court denied the plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction and summary judgment, and granted summary judgment to the State defendants.

Hile v. Michigan (U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan)

PFPS joined Michigan education and civil rights organizations in an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to dismiss a lawsuit attacking the state’s no-aid clause, which prohibits public funding of any private school.The amicus brief makes clear there is no federal constitutional right to public funding of private education and that Supreme Court decisions ruling states cannot bar religious institutions from public programs based on their religious status have no effect on the Michigan Constitution’s no-aid clause. The amicus brief explains that this clause is not a so-called “Blaine amendment,” as it is neutral both on its face and in its operation. The brief also reviews the history of its enactment by popular referendum in 1970, not based on religious animus but rather to ensure limited funds available for public schools would not be diverted to pay for private education.

Council of Organizations & Others for Education about Parochiaid v. State (Michigan Supreme Court)

PFPS filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the plaintiffs' application for Michigan Supreme Court review in a challenge to a state law that would divert public education funding to reimburse private schools for a range of expenses. The Court granted review and invited PFPS to file another amicus brief as it considered the merits of the case. PFPS's amicus brief argues that the plain text of the Michigan Constitution's no-aid clause, which expressly prohibits direct or indirect payment of public funds to nonpublic schools, expresses the electorate's intention to retain public funding exclusively for Michigan's public schools. PFPS's brief also provides crucial context about Michigan voters' approval of the no-aid clause in response to a strained public education budget, and details the continuing severe underfunding of Michigan's public schools.

Adams v. McMaster (South Carolina Supreme Court)

PFPS and the Southern Education Foundation filed an amici curiae brief urging the South Carolina Supreme Court to strike down Governor Henry McMaster’s plan to use federal emergency relief funds provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to start a private school voucher program. The brief argues that Governor McMaster’s public statements and assurances to the U.S. Department of Education confirm he intended the funds to directly benefit private schools, in violation of the state constitution’s prohibition on the use of public funds “for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” The brief also argues that Establishment Clause case law cited by the defendants was not relevant because South Carolina’s no-aid clause prohibits public funding of any private school. Finally, the brief explains that Governor McMaster’s unconstitutional use of CARES Act funds failed to address the urgent needs of South Carolina students during the pandemic. The South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the voucher program as unconstitutional.

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