Bill Phillis writes here about State Senator Matt Huffman, who is leading the fight to expand vouchers in Ohio. Phillis contrasts Huffman’s view with the state constitution. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana today, where plaintiffs seek to strike down all prohibitions by states of funding religious schools. Such a decision, encouraged by the Trump administration,  would validate Huffman’s assertion.

Bill Phillis writes:

Senator Matt Huffman: “shall be the duty of the General Assembly to fund the means of religious education”
Senator Matt Huffman, on Karen Kasler’s January 17, 2020 State of Ohio show (about 5 minutes into the show), said it is the constitutional duty of the General Assembly to fund the means of religious education. WOW. This is a brand new interpretation of the state’s constitutional responsibility.
What does the Constitution require of the state regarding the funding of education? Constitutional provisions relevant to the public common school system and education in general are reproduced below.
Article VI Section 1
Funds for Religious and Educational Purposes
The principal of all funds, arising from the sale, or other disposition of lands, or other property, granted or entrusted to this state for educational and religious purposes, shall be used or disposed of in such manner as the General Assembly shall prescribe by law.
(1851, am. 1968)
Article VI Section 2
School Funds
The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state; but no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this state.
Article VI Section 3
Public School System, Boards of Education
Provision shall be made by law for the organization, administration and control of the public school system of the state supported by public funds: provided, that each school district embraced wholly or in part within any city shall have the power by referendum vote to determine for itself the number of members and the organization of the district board of education, and provision shall be made by law for the exercise of this power by such school districts.
Article VI Section 4
State Board of Education
There shall be a state board of education which shall be selected in such manner and for such terms as shall be provided by law. There shall be a superintendent of public instruction, who shall be appointed by the state board of education. The respective powers and duties of the board and of the superintendent shall be prescribed by law.
(1912, am. 1953)
Article I Section 7
Rights of Conscience; Education; the Necessity of Religion and Knowledge
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his religious belief; but nothing herein shall be construed to dispense with oaths and affirmations. Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to pass suitable laws, to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of instruction.
Phillis comments:
What do these provisions mean?
·        The state has the responsibility to fund a thorough and efficient system of common schools (Article VI section 2)
·        The state has the duty of providing for the organization, administration and control of the public school system supported by public funds (Article VI section 3)
·        Article VI sections 2 and 3 require the state to maintain and fund the public common school system.
·        The state has the duty to protect all religious groups in the exercise of public worship (Article I section 7)
·        The state has no right to compel any person to support any place of worship (use of tax funds to support religious institutions is contrary to the intent of Article I section 7
·        The state has the duty to encourage school and the means of instruction (Article I section 7)
·        The state has the duty to “use or dispose of funds” derived from the sale of lands or other property granted or entrusted to the state for education and religious purposes (Article VI section 1). Essentially funds are available pursuant to Article VI section 1.
Phillis asks:
Where in the Constitution is there authority for the state to support private religious schools, much less the duty to do so?