The Case for Religious Charter Schools

Dec. 11 2020

This summer, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Espinoza v. Montana that states must allow parents to use vouchers and other similar subsidies to send their children to religious private schools. As Justice Stephen Breyer notes in his dissent, the ruling leaves open the question of whether states that allow for the creation of charter schools—quasi-private educational institutions that are funded by the taxpayers—can permit these schools to be religious. Nicole Stelle Garnett explains the situation:

Across the U.S., 6 percent of all public-school students now attend a charter school, although the proportion is much higher in many urban districts. In contrast to the pervasive, permissible participation of religious schools in private school-choice programs, all charter schools must—by law—be secular. All states with charter programs (as well as federal statutes addressing charter schools) prohibit religious charter schools, and many prohibit religious entities from operating charter schools, even if they are secular.

But, Garnett argues, there is significant legal reason to consider charter schools private and therefore, given the Espinoza decision, it would be constitutionally permissible to allow religious charter schools. This brings Garnett to another question:

[P]rivate-choice, charter-school programs may include religious schools. But must they include them? Enter, again, Espinoza v. Montana. That case squarely raises the question: if religious charter schools are constitutional, are statutes prohibiting them unconstitutional? The answer to that question—which almost certainly will be tested in litigation in the near future—is more straightforward than the answer to the previous one: yes. If charter schools are permissible, religious charter schools must be permitted.

If religious charter schools are constitutionally permissible, then justice—as well as the Constitution—demands that they must be permitted. But that does not mean that all religious schools should become charter schools. The possibility undoubtedly appeals to many religious schools, even in states with private school-choice programs, since charter schools in most states receive substantially more funding than private schools participating in choice programs. In states without private-school choice, the charter option is even more attractive for religious schools, since the alternative to becoming a charter school is no public funding at all.

Read more at Manhattan Institute

More about: Education, Freedom of Religion, School choice

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy