Key to Vouchers is Repeal of Blaine Amendment
If Betsy DeVoys is appointed this week as the Secretary of Education it is likely the key to vouchers is repeal of Blaine Amendment in the 36 states who have their version of this legislation in place. The Blaine Amendment, in essence, bars Federal or state funding of religious organizations, including religious schools. As political ideology is the driver in upcoming legislation impacting schools it is critical school superintendents prepare to lobby legislators.
The Supreme Court has taken up this issue and current litigation is challenging the interpretation of individual states’ laws. The Supreme Court has stated there are grey areas with regards to the legality of government money flowing through to benefit religious institutions such as vouchers following students to private religious based schools. With Rebulican majorities at the Federal and state levels it is highly probable the key to vouchers is repeal of Blaine Amendments at the state level.
Public schools historically have been reactive institutions. Arguably, over the past decade the organized special interests have taken the upper hand in pushing and legislating their agendas. School superintendents must begin to focus their energies on becoming a special interest lobbyist. They must begin to be politically astute and understand how to leverage the extensive political clout cloaked in the communities, parents and students they serve. The desire for a safe and quality school transcends political parties and most parents are political centrists. It is also a losing argument when interests or legislation to harm kids which many pieces of legislation does- it picks winners and losers. People in communities have greater access to their school superintendents than they do their state legislators. This direct access is a political tool superintendents must nurture, protect and leverage politically in a very proactive manner. If superintendents wait until things are done to their school districts it is too late. Parents will only see the negative effect on their children and begin to blame the school district.
It is likely Betsy DeVoys will be confirmed as the Secretary of Education. It is also likely, given her track record, the efforts of her office will be to create an environment of choice through vouchers. Legally, the key to vouchers is repeal of Blaine Amendments at the state level. It is also inevitable this could be the single most disruptive event in the history of public education that will attack the basic fundamental obligation our society has to ensure every child, regardless of income-race-wealth-abilities, has equal access to a quality education.