PFPS Amicus Briefs

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 provides 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 summarizes 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.

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.

Carson v. Makin (U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit)

PFPS filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Maine's decision not to use public school funding to pay for tuition at private religious schools. The brief argues that inclusion of sectarian schools would undermine the State'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 explains that expanding the tuition program to religious schools would divert taxpayer dollars from an already underfunded public school system.Finally, it warns that, because religious schools often discriminate based on characteristics such as religion and disability, 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. The district court upheld Maine's law limiting the program at issue to nonreligious 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 case law cited by the defendants regarding the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was not relevant because South Carolina’s constitution prohibits public funding of any private school. Finally, the brief explains that Governor McMaster’s unconstitutional use of the 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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