In the Trinity Lutheran ruling June 26, the justices said it was unconstitutional for the state of Missouri to prevent a church-run preschool from receiving state funds through a recycled playground surfacing program.
A day later, the court returned four similar cases to state courts in Colorado and New Mexico. Three Colorado cases and one New Mexico case involve whether taxpayers’ funds can be directed toward private schools.
In 2011, the Douglas County School District in Colorado began a school choice program called the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program. This allowed for taxpayer funds to be directed toward tuition at select private schools, some of which were religiously affiliated.
A legal challenge resulted, and in 2015 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in Doyle v. Taxpayers for Public Education that directing public money to private, religious institutions was unconstitutional.
In another case involving the same scholarship program, Douglas County School District v. Taxpayers for Public Education, supporters of school choice argued the Blaine Amendment to the Colorado Constitution and its history of religious bigotry, led to religious discrimination by state and local governments. The Colorado Supreme Court found the scholarship program unconstitutional and shut the program down.
The third case, Colorado State Board of Education v. Taxpayers for Public Education, examined the whether the state could deny public aid on the basis of religion within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, according to SCOTUSblog.com, a blog on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The New Mexico case deals with directing state funds to pay for textbooks and other programs at a variety of schools, some of which are private religious institutions. In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled against nonpublic schools getting the money so public funds were pulled from 109 private schools in New Mexico. The case is New Mexico Association of Nonpublic Schools v. Moses.
All four cases will return to their state supreme courts for further review in light of the high court’s Trinity Lutheran ruling.