DeVos Moves to Ease Church-State Rules in Education

In Education On

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.

The move comes after the 2017 Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer, in which the high court found that Missouri had unconstitutionally engaged in religious discrimination when it denied a church-run preschool publicly funded tire scraps for its playground.

Ms. DeVos said that after consultation with the Justice Department, education officials determined that a provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal law governing the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools, was also unconstitutional. The law calls for students in public and private schools to receive “equitable services,” such as special education, tutoring or mentoring, and allows districts to hire contractors to deliver those services. But the law requires that those contractors be independent of “any religious organization.”

“The Trinity Lutheran decision reaffirmed the long-understood intent of the First Amendment to not restrict the free exercise of religion,” Ms. DeVos said in a statement. “Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization.”

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