The Supreme Court Should Take a Stand for Religious Charter Schools

January 10, 2023 | George Will
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The Supreme Court is expected to announce shortly whether it will hear the case of Peltier v. Charter Day School, in which a North Carolina mother of two sued the school her children attend over its policy of having different dress codes for boys and girls. In the view of a federal appeals court, charter schools, since they receive private funds, are public institutions and thus the dress code is impermissible. George Will hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the ruling. Doing so would make room for religious charter schools—including Jewish ones.

If opponents of expanded school choices would devote to improving public education half the ingenuity they invest in impeding competition from alternatives to the status quo, there would be less demand for alternatives. That demand would be strengthened by a Supreme Court decision that charter schools are not “state actors,” and hence can present pedagogical and cultural choices without being vulnerable to suffocating litigation.

Charters are so popular the public education establishment must attack them indirectly, by what [a dissenting appeals-court judge] calls “the slow strangulation of litigation.” Unless the Supreme Court rescues charters from the “state actor” designation, today’s argument that sex differences in dress codes violate “equal protection” will morph into attacks on single-sex charters, and bathroom or sports policies based on biological sex. Discussions of religion will provoke First Amendment establishment-clause challenges. Only the Supreme Court can protect charters from progressives who, ever eager to break all institutions to the saddle of government, pursue this aim while praising a predictable casualty of it, true diversity.

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