January 2020 | Number 451
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Trump Hosts School Choice Roundtable at White House
The president of the United States brought high level attention to the issue of school choice at a White House event on December 19. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Education Secretary DeVos, as well as leaders from Capitol Hill and state government, heard from students, parents, and teachers who have seen first hand how a better education can change lives.

The president gave a full-throated endorsement of legislation in Congress that would create a federal tax credit to support state scholarship programs, saying , " We believe that every parent should have educational freedom for their children...People want school choice."

Walter Blanks, seated next to the president, gave a particularly compelling account of his life experiences, describing how "some of my friends were going to sleep to lullabies, I was going to sleep to gunshots. My education was my way out."

Supreme Court Accepts Important "Ministerial Exception" Cases
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear two important cases involving religious schools and the "ministerial exception." "In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and  St. James School v. Biel, the justices will consider the scope of the 'ministerial exception,'" according to SCOTUSblog. The cases involve lower court interpretations of the Supreme Court's landmark 9-0 decision in Hosanna-Tabor (2012), which protected the First Amendment right of a Lutheran church school to choose its teachers.

According to the outstanding people at Becket , who made the following video, " Under the ministerial exception, church schools like Our Lady of Guadalupe have the First Amendment right to choose who teaches the faith to the next generation, free from any government interference."
Congress, President Reach Budget Deal
On December 20, President Trump signed into law the budget deal negotiated by Congress and the White House. The $1.4 trillion spending package for Fiscal Year 2020 includes:

  • $16.3 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, an increase of $450 million over the 2019 level.

  • $2.1 billion for Title II-A, which funds professional development for teachers and administrators, an increase of $76 million over the 2019 level.

  • $1.2 billion for Title IV-A, which provides Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG), an increase of $40 million over last year's level.
DC Opportunity Scholarship Program Reauthorized
The budget deal included a four year reauthorization of the DC Opportunity Scholarship program, the nation's only federally funded voucher program. According to a release from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 10,000 students have been recipients of a scholarship over the last fifteen years. "The average income for families with children enrolled in the program is $24,000 per year, and 91 percent of the children are minorities. The high school graduation rate of participating students is 98 percent, and 86 percent of those enroll in a two- or four-year college or university, reinforcing the positive impact that this program has in empowering families to choose a school that best fits the needs of their child."
Unpopular Parking Tax on Nonprofits Repealed
An especially welcome feature of the budget deal is language repealing the 21% tax on some of the fringe benefits nonprofit organizations, including private schools, provide their employees. Those benefits include transportation-related expenses like parking, transit passes, and commuting subsidies. The immensely unpopular and confusing tax was passed with little notice as part of the tax bill approved by Congress two years ago, only to cause an uproar when knowledge of the provision began to spread. To the relief of many in the nonprofit community, this short-lived tax is now history.
Manhattan Institute Releases Report on "Putting Values Back at the Center of Education Reform"
From a new report by Kathleen Porter-Magee for the Manhattan Institute: "For the past two decades, the debate over school reform has largely centered on the expansion of choice and the increase of state-led accountability, grounded in standardized math and reading tests. Values, culture, and beliefs—the inside of a school—have largely taken a backseat to these external, structural changes." The report, which is focused on Catholic schools, can be read in its entirety here.
South Carolina to Consider ESA Bill
From The State newspaper in South Carolina: "Parents of low-income students in South Carolina would be able to take the state portion of school funding allocated to their student and use it at a private school under a proposal being discussed by state senators." Other disadvantaged children would be eligible as well. Read the bill here.
High Stakes at the High Court
In the coming weeks and months, the highest court in the land will be taking up at least three cases of...wait for it... supreme importance to private schools. On January 22, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue . The Court will consider whether the Montana Supreme Court was out of order when it struck down that state's tax credit scholarship program on the grounds that, because some families receiving scholarships would use them to send their children to religious schools, it must be unconstitutional under Montana's Blaine Amendment. Some advocates believe there is a chance the Court could use this opportunity to strike down Blaine Amendments nationwide.

As mentioned above, the Court has also agreed to hear two "ministerial exception" cases that cut to the heart of religious schools' ability to decide who they employ in teaching positions.

Issues of central importance to private education will be taking center stage at the nation's top court. We at CAPE Outlook will endeavor to keep you informed of the latest developments.
Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
CAPE member organizations:

Agudath Israel of America

American Montessori Society

Association Montessori

Association of Christian Schools

Association of Christian
Teachers and Schools

Association of Waldorf
Schools of N.A.

Christian Schools International

Council of Islamic Schools
in North America
Council on Educational Standards
and Accountability

Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America

Friends Council on Education

Islamic Schools League of America

Jesuit Schools Network

Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

National Association of
Episcopal Schools

National Association of
Independent Schools
National Catholic
Educational Association

National Christian School

Office for Lasallian Education
Christian Brothers Conference

Oral Roberts University
Educational Fellowship

Seventh-day Adventist
Board of Education

United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Synod Schools
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12

Executive Director:
Michael Schuttloffel

Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.
ISSN 0271-145

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 844-883-CAPE

Michael Schuttloffel
Executive Director
Phone: 844-883-CAPE