Amicus Brief Filed to Overturn Blaine Amendments, Opens Door for Greater Choice

Published December 24, 2015

Four education groups have filed an amicus brief in the hopes of convincing the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to consider a Colorado voucher case that would require examining the scope of the state’s Blaine Amendment.

In 2011, Douglas County, Colorado implemented a pilot voucher program. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged the program was against the state’s constitution, and the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on the side of ACLU in June 2015, eliminating the program.

The Goldwater Institute, Foundation for Excellence in Education, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), and the American Federation for Children filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Colorado law in December. If the groups succeed, SCOTUS could overturn the legality of the Blaine Amendment across the nation,  opening up the possibility of additional school choice programs for millions of children.

Blaine amendments are state constitutional provisions that prevent the use of public money for a religious purpose. Opponents of school choice often challenge choice programs by claiming taxpayer money could potentially go to a religious school.

‘Motivated by Anti-Catholic Bigotry’

Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Clint Bolick says Blaine amendments are historically rooted in religious prejudice.

“Blaine amendments are the biggest legal obstacle in the states to school vouchers,” said Bolick. “This lawsuit could strike down Blaine amendments because they were motivated by anti-Catholic bigotry and discriminate against religious families and schools.

“If Douglas County prevails, not only will it save their voucher program, but it could open the door to school vouchers in other states where Blaine amendments present obstacles,” Bolick said.

Fighting for School Choice

Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of HCREO, says school choice is the key to correcting broken traditional public school systems.

“From Hispanic CREO’s point of view, obviously supporting any fight against school choice programs, we’re all over it,” said Fuentes. “The more opportunity we give our children and families for quality education, the better. What the current public school system is dishing out isn’t good enough. Any additional educational opportunities are a good thing.” 

“The dropout rate speaks for itself,” said Fuentes. “All families would benefit from school choice programs we see in other parts of the country.” 

Bolick says overturning Blaine amendments would expand educational opportunities for students all around the nation. 

“At least three dozen states have Blaine amendments, so the effect of the ruling could be seismic,” said Bolick. “That is what we argued to [SCOTUS] in an effort to convince it to grant review in the case.”

Heather Kays ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute and is managing editor of School Reform News.

Image by Joe Gratz.

Internet Info:

“Education Organizations File Supporting Brief Asking Supreme Court to Hear Case on Douglas County, Colorado School Voucher Program,” Foundation for Excellence in Education, December 2, 2015: