|Three families demanding that the state pay tuition for religious schools are taking their appeal to a U.S. Supreme Court that looks much different than when the lawsuit was filed more than two years ago.
The conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling in a Montana case make attorneys for the Maine families more optimistic that they'll prevail in changing the state's stance, which dates to 1980. The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the appeal, filed Thursday.
“The court should grant this case and resolve this issue once and for all,” said the families' attorney, Michael Bindas, from the Institute for Justice.
The Maine Department of Education currently allows families who reside in towns without their own public schools to receive tuition to attend a public or private school of their choice. But religious schools are excluded.
There have been several lawsuits over the years, but the courts always have sided with the state, which contends using taxpayer dollars to fund religious education violates the separation of church and state.
The latest lawsuit targeting Maine's tuition program was filed in August 2018 after the Supreme Court held that a Missouri program was wrong in denying a grant to a religious school for playground resurfacing.