By Matt Barnum
The law is clear: In order to be eligible for federal charter grants, charter schools must not be “affiliated with a sectarian school or religious institution.”
But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said earlier this week that she will no longer enforce this prohibition. Religious organizations should feel free to apply for federal money to open charter schools, she said, and a recent Supreme Court ruling is on her side.
“Prohibiting religiously affiliated public charter schools is unconstitutional,” DeVos said at a forum in Kentucky. “The Department of Education in the Charter School Program will not discriminate and will allow for and welcome religiously affiliated applicants.”
It’s not clear that DeVos’s move will prompt immediate changes in who tries to start charter schools, and it could be reversed by a Biden administration if President Trump loses reelection next week. But it amounts to the first shot fired in what’s likely to be a lengthy legal battle over charter schools and religion in the wake of two recent Supreme Court decisions.
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