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California bans public funding for religious schools. With the courts' help, these families want to change that.

Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

California has long had a hard ban preventing public school funding from going toward any sectarian instruction or sectarian schools.

But now families in at least two federal lawsuits in California, encouraged by a Supreme Court that has been friendly to many religious liberty cases, are challenging that prohibition, which they argue discriminates against religious families.

Article 9 of the California constitution forbids any public dollars from supporting any sectarian or denominational school, and it forbids any sectarian doctrine or instruction being taught in any public schools including charter schools, either directly or indirectly.

Despite that rule, families have found ways to get both public school funding and religious instruction, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week.

They do so by home-schooling through certain independent-study charter schools, which give them thousands of dollars a year in funding for educational and enrichment services, and then simultaneously enrolling in religious hybrid instruction programs.

However, these charter schools and religious programs acknowledge those charter funds still can't be used for any religious program tuition or religious curriculum.

 

Three California Christian families are trying to change that with a case called Woolard v. Thurmond.

In October, the three families sued State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and their two independent study home-schooling charters — Blue Ridge Academy and Visions in Education — in federal court, saying they should be allowed to use their charter funding for religious instruction and curricula.

And earlier last year, three California Jewish families and two Jewish schools who also want public school funding for religious instruction sued the state education department, Thurmond and Los Angeles Unified in district court. That case was dismissed last year but is being appealed.

That lawsuit, Loffman v. California Department of Education, is not about charter schools. Rather, it's about the private schools that California pays to educate students with serious disabilities.

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©2024 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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