Catholic School Matters

October 27, 2019

Blaine Amendment

This week’s newsletter is focused on the landmark Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in January. Many people believe the case will overturn Blaine amendments which are present in 37 states and are used to prevent the state from funding religious schools in any way. This case will be talked about for many years and could potentially open up new ways to fund religious and private schools.

The case originated with a student scholarship program which passed the Montana legislature in 2015 but was found unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court based on the Blaine amendment in the Montana constitution. The US Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal and many believe that the Court will expand the Trinity Lutheran case to overthrow all Blaine amendments, which originated in the early 19th century in anti-Catholic sentiment.

It is important for school leaders to prepare for a new reality. As lawmakers and education departments begin to decipher a new educational funding landscape, it’s important for school leaders to consider the implications. In the newsletter below, I present some great articles which examine the origins of Blaine Amendments, the arguments for and against overthrowing these amendments, and a look at creating a more just funding environment.

In addition, I explore these issues this week in the Catholic School Matters podcast by interviewing a policy advocate from Montana, one of the co-counsels of the case, and a fierce advocate for school choice. It’s a great way to explore the ideas through conversation and establishes the argument that state governments cannot show hostility toward religion.

School leaders are often busy (especially this time of year!) and we often leave policy arguments and school choice to others. But it would benefit to study this particular case and consider how our environment could soon change.

Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

Over the summer, a high school in South Carolina faced an outcry over racist videos by a student and its reaction to the matter. The school faced criticism for not revealing the disciplinary actions it took as well and then when it was revealed it allowed the student to withdraw (as opposed to expulsion). We are all conditioned to not reveal private disciplinary matters. However, there are times with public situations when we need to reveal certain aspects. Where do you draw the line? How do you communicate these matters and to whom? Would racist threats rise to this level in your school community? What are other situations that would rise to this level?

Blaine Amendment Articles

What I'm Up To

We welcome Dr. Rachel Moreno, a retired ACE professor, back to Montana this week to coach our teachers in Hays. St. Paul Mission Grade School is home to three Sparkill Dominicans, 5 Nigerian sisters, 4 Jesuit Volunteers, and two lay teachers. Serving a Native population on the Fort Belknap reservation in a tuition-free school, they are doing God's work on the margins. I will serve as Dr. Moreno's Uber and will make two roundtrips to Hays to support the work. I will also get three days in the office to catch up on work, including the exciting NCEA Annual report!

I explore the landmark Espinoza case on the Catholic School Matters podcast. This case originated in Montana and will be heard at the US Supreme Court in January. It holds the possibility to overturn the dreaded Blaine Amendments and change state funding across the country. I am joined by Matthew Brower, the Executive Director of the Montana Catholic Conference to give us the facts of the case, attorney Erica Smith of the Institute for Justice, co-counsel on the case, and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer from the Catholic Foundation who is supporting the effort.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Sunday: Travel to Hays
  • Monday: Return to Helena
  • Tuesday: Office (Helena)
  • Wednesday: Office (Helena)
  • Thursday: Office (Helena)
  • Friday: Travel to/from Hays

Miles this week: 1,195 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2019-20: 14,632 road miles; 24,002 air miles

Last 5 Books

    1. River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey (2019) by Sister Helen Prejean
    2. The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology (2017) by William C. Mattison III
    3. Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age (2019) by John Sexton
    4. Talking to Strangers (2019) by Malcolm Gladwell

    5. Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus (2019) by Jim Wallis

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • Here is a link to the slideshow from the October 1st Virtual Meeting. Our next meeting is November 5th
            • Renaissance Learning is putting on a free literacy event in Missoula (covering math and reading) on Nov 8th. If you're interested, let me know

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooze

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"