NM Supreme Court Textbook Decision Senseless

As reported in today’s Albuquerque Journal, the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that children in private schools should not be allowed to receive textbooks paid for by taxpayers.

Now, we at the Rio Grande Foundation believe that the number of things government should pay for to be quite limited, but it is hard to see how a family’s decision to send their child to a private school should force them to give up any claim to the tax dollars they have forked over to the state to pay for education. It’s not like tax dollars are being used to pay for religious textbooks or something not taught in the traditional schools. Rather, these dollars are benefiting New Mexico children — children of taxpayers — just the same.

The US Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue, approving the use of tax dollars for non-religious materials provided to religious schools in Mitchell v. Helms.

That decision said in part that since the loans were suitable for both religious and public schools, the government was not serving to advance religion.

Accordingly, the government may now provide aid to religious groups as long as such aid advances some legitimate non-religious purpose and is granted in the same manner to non-religious groups.

Not sure what the next steps are but one wonders if this decision shouldn’t be appealed to the Nation’s highest Court. The good news is that our liberal New Mexico Supreme Court has a bit more balance with the addition of its newest justice.

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11 Replies to “NM Supreme Court Textbook Decision Senseless”

  1. The NM Supreme Court ruled based on our NM Constitution which clearly prohibits money collected from NM taxpayers from going to non-public schools. If parents want free textbooks and free tuition, both are available in public schools.

    Money is fungible. Giving money for textbooks to religious schools means they have more money to spend on religious materials and instruction. In essence, state money is being used to support religion. Using public $ to support any religion shows favoritism toward that religion. This action “establishes” that religion as an official government-endorsed religion which is a clear violation of the First Amendment to our US Constitution.

    Try this thought experiment: Ask yourself if the good Christian folks demanding our tax dollars for their textbooks would approve the same treatment for a school created by a Coven of Wiccans or an organized group of Satan-worshipers. It’s difficult for me to imagine they would and that would prove my point. I suspect they want preferential treatment for religions they approve of, but no other.

    The only way to have true Freedom of Conscience (Jefferson’s term) is for government to refrain from having anything to do with religious belief or non-belief. All must be equal in the eyes of government.

    1. Read Mitchell v. Helms to get it. In a state that has a leftist Supreme Court that would impress Fidel Castro, where teachers produce dismal educational results with our children yet whine incessantly about tests, and performance reviews and clearly care more about their union than they do about their students – we know the right answers but bow to the Democrat cabal. The problems are fixable.

      Students who graduate from college have to leave the state to find a robust job market.

      Take this to the US Supremes!

      P.S. If the Satan-worshipping school wanted educational text books that did not promote their religion, yes they deserve tax funded textbooks.

    2. re: 2nd paragraph of Ken Whiton post. “Giving money for textbooks to religious schools means they have more money to spend on religious materials and instruction. In essence, state money is being used to support religion” I was just wondering if this is like taxpayer money being given to Planned Parenthood. PP says the money is not used for abortions, but it must free up money used elsewhere and that money can then cover the cost of abortions, so in essence taxpayer money IS being spent on abortions. Right?

      1. Karen: Excellent point. The radical point of view these days could also be that if you are not sending your child to “government” schools you should receive back any money that would have been spent on your child. It is called Freedom.

    3. Favoritism or promoting a religion by the government is probably the same as the “establishment” of a religion. However, the liberal SCOTUS that decided that giving taxpayers back their tax money if they chose not to use the failing “government” schools was definitely wrong and prejudiced against a free people. No where is it believed anymore in Conservative thinking that the Federal Government should have anything to do with public education.

        1. Sorry Paul. It was awkward. 1. Public schools should not promote any one religion; 2. Taxpayers should be refunded money to send their children to any school even if not a public school; 3. I do believe the courts have ruled against this and that is not right; 4. Lastly, the Federal Department of Education should be dissolved and municipalities should have the only say in how their children are taught. Better? Paul.

          1. Your points are clear Paul and I appreciate that. Thanks.

            1) I agree with you that public schools should not promote a religion.
            2) I’d love to see taxes refunded if parents send their kids to non-government schools. Unfortunately, we are a long way from that. Nevada is the first state to take a step in that direction with ESA’s.
            3) The New Mexico Courts have ruled against paying for textbooks for non-government schools, but the US Supreme Court has ruled in favor.
            4) Agreed on dissolving the US Department of Education.

    4. No surprise Ken, I disagree with you. While you may or may not be correct on the NM Constitution, that doesn’t mean it is a wise or good prohibition. Also, tuition-based and parochial schools are still “public.” They can be accessed by any student with the ability to pay tuition or a scholarship. This is just another reflection of NM’s poorly-written and deeply-“progressive” Constitution that holds our state back.

      From a separation of church and state perspective, I say parents are paying taxes to the state theoretically for the benefit of their child’s education. In the case of religious schools, no tax money should be available for religious instruction of any kind. However, non-religion books should be made available for children in non-public schools because those parents are paying taxes just the same. Money is fungible, but textbooks are not. I do hope you have the same views about Planned Parenthood, Ken.

  2. DeToqueville’s DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA (published in France 1935) was the first study made of the new American way of life. He expresses his surprise at this “overwhelmingly middle class country” with most possessing basic literary and technical skills to enable them to succeed in their work and observe a day (Sunday) to reflect “upon your origin and destiny and the responsibilities given to Beings made in God’s image.”. “We are all beasts with angels in us.”

    During the early 1800s America was still a homogeneous society, descendants of mostly British settlers during the 1600s and 1700s. When new towns were formed the first thing citizens did was hire a school teacher who taught children aged 6 thru 21. Lessons were based upon advancing skill levels through readings of the Bible Puritan influence)and great literary works. This method not only developed reading skills but encouraged analytical reasoning, critical thinking, problem identification and a big dose of morality.

    The McGuffey Readers 1-6 used throughout the country from 1836 to the early 1900s were an incredible resource for educating us to become the
    democratic gold standard for other countries to emulate and aspire to. The beaurocratic nightmare that paralyzes our teachers today is reflected in the new School Grades report by the New Mexico Education Department. When private corporations do not perform well they quickly get rid of their CEO, not VPs or assembly workers. Why is Hanna Sandara, NM Public Education Secretary, allowed to keep her job?

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