Supreme Court to revisit issue of state funds in parochial schoolsApril 14, 1997
Web posted at: 7:15 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Supreme Court will revisit the issue of federal aid for religious education when it hears arguments Tuesday on a procedural move to reverse a 1985 ruling that kept state-funded special education programs out of parochial schools.
In the Felton v. Aguilar decision, the Supreme Court ruled that sending public school teachers into religious schools to provide federally funded remedial instruction violated the Constitution.
The reason for the ruling was to preserve the separation of church and state. But the 1985 decision appears to conflict with the requirements of the 1965 Education and Secondary Education Act, which mandates federal services to educationally and economically deprived children.
The New York City Board of Education and a group of parochial school parents are petitioning the court for a reversal. From 1965 to 1985, New York City sent its remedial reading teachers into parochial school classrooms. Since the 1985 ruling, New York has paid $16 million a year to put trailers outside religious schools so public school teachers can hold remedial classes without entering their grounds.
"Aguilar just doesn't make sense," Kevin Baine, a lawyer representing parochial school parents, told CNN. "No one disputes that these children are entitled to the services. The only question is where will they receive the services."
But Lisa Thurau, executive director of the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty, wants the court to retain the 1985 ruling.
"By sending public school teachers into religious schools ... you are effectively subsidizing those religious schools," said Thurau. "As a matter of constitutional law and equity, we have opposed this distribution of these increasingly scarce resources."
Thurau's group brought the original lawsuit that resulted in the Aguilar v. Felton decision. Thurau said the fact that the Supreme Court accepted the case on a civil procedure "suggests that (the justices) are very eager to look at this case again."
The civil procedure allows for the parties involved to be released from an earlier ruling if they present new evidence that it is no longer equitable.
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