UPDATE 2: A reader points out that conservatives have been lying in wait for a long time for a head-on shot at striking down the Blaine Amendment, a shot that today’s Colorado Supreme Court provides. The reader sends this from the Wall Street Journal editorial page more than a decade ago. The piece illuminates how pro-Blaine, anti-Douglas County liberals will be left in the all-too-comfortable position of aligning themselves with an avowed race monster. We would highlight this from the WSJ:
“’The Blaine movement,’ writes Tony Mauro in Legal Times, ‘grew out of nativist and anti-immigrant sentiments in the second half of the 19th Century, gaining momentum when Catholics began to object to the pervasively Protestant climate of public or ‘common’ schools at the time.’
Blaine proposed his bill after Catholics began asking states for funds to start their own schools. His efforts failed at the federal level, but state legislatures cottoned to the idea, and by 1890 29 states had Blaine provisions incorporated in their constitutions. Today, every state — save Maine, Louisiana and North Carolina — has Blaine language or its equivalent still on the books….
…Meanwhile, it’s worth stressing the spectacle of reform opponents — good ‘liberals’ all — invoking a century-old relic of religious bigotry in order to keep children shackled to our nation’s worst schools. Their methods evoke the poll taxes and grandfather clauses that were hastily employed by states after Reconstruction to deny blacks suffrage guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution. What lovely moral company the NAACP and the teachers’ unions now keep.”
UPDATE: Education Policy Center Director Pam Benigno from the Independence Institute, which helped craft some of the recommendations around this program, weighed in on the ruling:
“This decision is difficult to swallow, especially for students who are struggling in their current school to reach their full potential. Families deserve access to more educational options.”
Next stop, U.S. Supreme Court? This morning, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a Douglas County School District program that would allow parents to use state funds to send their children to the school of their choosing. The reason to deny kids the opportunity for a better education? The Blaine Amendment, whose heritage of hate and bigotry has been well documented by the Denver Post‘s Vincent Carroll.
According to sources, Douglas County’s ultimate prize is now larger than a narrow policy victory in Colorado – the proponents will likely petition the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Blaine Amendment.
In that sense, the Colorado Supreme Court was an unwitting accomplice. By striking down the Douglas County voucher plan on grounds that it violated the Blaine Amendment, the Colorado Supreme Court sets up a challenge to Blaine itself, which is the law of the land in 38 states.
That’s why many advocates of the program, like DougCo Board of Ed Member Doug Benevento, say the fight has just begun.
Here’s what Benevento had to say about the ruling:
“We always understood the possibility that the Colorado Supreme Court would not be the final word on this matter. Pending consultation with my colleagues I look forward to appealing this matter to the United States Supreme Court so that it can weigh in on whether the Blaine Amendment should prohibit parents from exercising their right to choose the best school for their children. While I would have preferred to have won outright on that issue in the Colorado Supreme Court, it will be a fine consolation prize to put that issue before the U.S. Supreme Court and provide it the opportunity to strike down the stain of these amendments across the United States.”
In a stinging dissent, Justice Allison Eid seemed to foreshadow the arguments to come, arguing that not only did the Colorado Court misinterpret Blaine, but that Blaine itself is at issue under the constitution because of its inextricable ties to xenophobic and anti-Catholic aims. Eid lambasted the Court in her opinion, saying the Court’s “head-in-the-sand approach is a disservice to Colorado as it allows anti-Catholic animus to linger.” Eid’s opinion no doubt presages a bigger challenge with even bigger consequences.
That’s why sources say this is an outcome that many national school reformers were quietly hoping for. A win in Colorado on vouchers would have been confined to Colorado. A decision striking the measure down on the grounds that it violated the Blaine Amendment creates the controversy where the Blaine Amendment can be struck down in total, opening the door to vouchers on a national basis.
Union-cronies will no doubt call today’s ruling a win. We say, stay tuned. The fight over vouchers in Douglas County isn’t over by a long shot. Thirty seven other states will be watching closely.