Can the State Support the Establishment of a Religious Charter School?

Some 3.7 million American children are currently enrolled in charter schools, which are independently run but state-funded. According to a recent Stanford University study, pupils at these schools consistently outperform those at regular public schools. Last week, officials in Oklahoma approved a charter school that would be administered by the local Catholic diocese and include religious instruction in its curriculum. Granting approval is a clear violation of state regulations—in fact, no state currently allows religious charter schools—but supporters are hoping to challenge the law in the Supreme Court if necessary. Jeff Jacoby writes:

In its 2002 decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, a landmark that has been called the most important education decision since Brown v. Board of Education, the high court ruled that low-income parents in Ohio could use state tuition-aid vouchers to enroll their children in religious schools. . . . Writing for the court in a case out of Montana in 2020, Chief Justice John Roberts expressed the principle clearly: “A state need not subsidize private education,” he wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

Though the court hasn’t yet ruled in a case involving charter schools, it’s difficult to see why the same logic wouldn’t apply. Clearly, a standard public school—one operated by government employees under the supervision of a political school board—cannot be a religious enterprise. But charter schools, though publicly funded, are not publicly operated. They are organized and run by private groups and individuals; their whole raison d’être is to offer education unavailable in government schools. States provide money and enforce basic legal standards, but otherwise charter schools are autonomous. That’s a key reason for their popularity.

Many critical public services—from healthcare and homeless shelters to foster care and food pantries—are supplied by faith-based groups that receive government subsidies. To mention one especially striking example, more than 70 percent of all refugee resettlement in the United States is undertaken by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations. Though the Constitution prohibits the government from engaging in the “establishment of religion,” it raises no bar to contracting with religious providers to help fulfill important government obligations.

A church-run charter school is in exactly the same category. Oklahoma is right to say so, and other states should follow its lead.

Read more at Boston Globe

More about: American law, Education, Religion and politics

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security