Supreme Court ready to reexamine public teachers in private schools


The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Jan. 17 to reconsider an earlier ruling on the constitutionality of sending publicly funded teachers into church-related schools to conduct remedial classes.

The Court ruled 12 years ago that although federal law mandates the use of public funds to provide remedial education to qualifying students in parochial schools, taxpayer-paid teachers providing those services may not enter church-school property.

The decision has resulted in a variety of awkward work-arounds, including classroom trailers parked on public property near church schools, and forcing students who are already struggling to spend instructional time on a bus going to a public school for remedial education.

The Court accepted cases being appealed by New York City school officials and by parents of parochial school students. The Clinton Administration has also urged the Court to reconsider its 1985 ruling, saying that the decision has resulted in “hundreds of millions of dollars” of needless administrative costs.

The 1985 case, Aguilar v. Felton, was passed on a 5-4 vote. The majority wrote, “The symbolic union of church and state inherent in the provision of secular, state-provided instruction in the religious school buildings threatens to convey a message of state support for religion to students and the general public.” However, only one member of that majority remains on the Court. Five members of the current court have called for a reversal of the 1985 ruling.

The case will be heard in April, and a decision is expected before the current session of the Supreme Court ends in July.

— E.P. News

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