Press Release

AFT’s Weingarten Reacts to Oral Arguments in Espinoza v. Montana

Supreme Court Could Unleash Earthquake Threatening Public Education and Religious Liberty

For Release: 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Contact:

AFTSCOTUS@skdknick.com

WASHINGTON—Following today’s Supreme Court oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement:

“Today’s argument revealed a closely divided court that appeared skeptical of the most far-reaching and dangerous theories advanced by the petitioners.

“Thankfully, several justices, including Chief Justice Roberts, questioned the petitioners’ standing and asked hard questions of the right-wing Institute for Justice, which is trying to advance a contradictory and truly radical legal theory that would undermine public financing of public education in 38 states.

“Make no mistake, if a majority of the justices side with the petitioners, the Supreme Court will be responsible for unleashing a virtual earthquake in this country that threatens both religious liberty and public education. It would turn more than two centuries of American history and our understanding of the Constitution and religious liberty on their head, and mandate public taxpayer support for religious schools.   

“We know that in previous cases, Justice Roberts did not embrace this kind of radical rewrite of the Constitution. But the right wing has been stealthy in how it has operated, knowing the court is acutely aware of public opinion.

“This case is being spearheaded by the right-wing IFJ, which has collected tens of millions of dollars from the Waltons, the DeVoses, Charles Koch and other wealthy donors to attack public education. They are bankrolling this effort as a backdoor attempt to get the court to impose Betsy DeVos’ failed agenda of private school vouchers nationwide. It is no coincidence that DeVos was at the court in person today to hear oral arguments.

“As a person of faith, I’m deeply worried about the impact this case could have. Our freedom to practice our religion comes from free exercise clause and the separation of church and state. The framers never intended to require public funding of religious institutions or schools. In fact, that’s exactly what the free exercise clause and the separation of church and state were meant to prevent. And as a teacher and a believer in public education, I am deeply worried about the effects of this case on the financing of our public schools, which are attended by 90 percent of our children.

“Teachers, students, parents, school staff, and all allies who believe in public education understand the stakes. Whatever the court decides, we will continue our fight to oppose this blatant attack on our nation’s very foundations.”

For an interview with AFT President Randi Weingarten or AFT General Counsel David Strom, who attended today’s argument, please contact AFTSCOTUS@skdknick.com.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.