Legislation was introduced on June 15 proposing to repeal the Blaine Amendment in the New York State constitution.
Enacted by many states in the nineteenth century, the Blaine amendment prohibits the allocation of public money to religious schools.
The proposed legislation would clear the way for vouchers for religious schools.
This is an opportune time for the repeal effort by supporters of religious schools. The proliferation of charter schools has dimmed the bright line that separates public and private schools. Many charter schools are private schools that operate with public funds. They are not open to all. They are free to write their own rules and to kick out kids who don’t live by their rules. They operate with minimal oversight. Most have wealthy directors, usually hedge fund managers, who supply extra funds. Most have a smaller proportion of students with disabilities and English-language learners than their nearby public school. And they claim to be better because they are not regular public schools. Also, there are places like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Louisiana, as well as D.C., that already send public funds to religious schools.
Now that it is hard to know what is a public school and what is a private school, it becomes harder still to explain why it’s okay to send public funds to thousands of privately managed charters but not to religious schools, or why some states may directly fund religious schools and others don’t. And that’s why voucher legislation becomes feasible in these times.
Since the change in the state constitution in New York requires a popular vote, this is no slam-dunk. There may still be voters who remember what they were taught in school about separation of church and state.