Supreme Court to revisit state spending in parochial schoolsApril 15, 1997
Web posted at: 7:44 a.m. EDT (1144 GMT)
WASHINGTON (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.
The New York City Board of Education and a group of parochial school parents are petitioning the court for a reversal of the 12-year-old Felton v. Aguilar decision. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that sending public school teachers into religious schools to provide federally funded remedial instruction violated the Constitution.
The 1985 ruling was intended to preserve the separation of church and state. However, it conflicts with the requirements of the 1965 Education and Secondary Education Act, which mandates federal services to educationally and economically deprived children.
New York says the conflicting requirements are costing the state $16 million a year. It now sets up trailers outside religious schools so that public school teachers can hold remedial classes without entering their grounds. From 1965 to 1985, New York City had simply sent its remedial reading teachers into parochial school classrooms.
"Aguilar just doesn't make sense," said Kevin Baine, an attorney representing parochial school parents in the case. "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 (PEARL), 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."
PEARL filed the original lawsuit that brought about the 1985 decision. Thurau said the very fact that the court accepted the case now on a civil procedure "suggests that they are very eager to look at this case again."
The procedure allows for the parties involved to be released from an earlier ruling if they present new evidence that it is no longer equitable.
On Monday, the Supreme Court:
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