Carson v. Makin, No. 19-1746 (1st Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting judgment to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education in this federal constitutional challenge to the requirement of Maine's tuition assistance program that a private school must be "a nonsectarian school in accordance with the First Amendment" to qualify as "approved" to receive tuition assistance payments, holding that the program's condition violated neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Establishment Clause.
To ensure that Maine's school administrative units (SAUs) make the benefits of a free public education available Maine provides by statute that SAUs that do not operate a public secondary school of their own may either contract with a secondary school for school privileges or pay the tuition at the public school or an approved private school at which the student from their SAU is accepted. Plaintiffs brought this suit against the Commissioner, arguing that the program's requirement that a private school be a nonsectarian school to receive tuition assistance payments infringed various of their federal constitutional rights. The district court granted judgment to the Commissioner. Having twice before rejected similar federal constitutional challenges to the "nonsectarian" requirement and even accounting for fresh United States Supreme Court precedent the First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' constitutional challenges failed.