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Non secular colleges shun state funding regardless of Maine victory

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Mother and father of kids enrolled in Maine non secular colleges fought for years — all the best way to the U.S. Supreme Court docket — for the state to deal with tuition reimbursements the identical as different non-public colleges.

However solely one of many non secular excessive colleges that stood to learn has signed as much as take part this fall, after Maine’s legal professional normal warned that the faculties must abide by state antidiscrimination legal guidelines, together with those who defend LGBTQ college students and college. That improvement has annoyed the households who sued.

“Their fingers are tied. The state stated you may take the cash, however we’ll tie your fingers,” stated David Carson, whose daughter was a sophomore at Bangor Christian Colleges when his household and two different plaintiffs sued in 2018.

The Supreme Court docket dominated in June that Maine can’t exclude non secular colleges from a program that gives tuition for personal schooling in rural cities the place there aren’t any public colleges.

Non secular excessive colleges with a recognized stake within the tuition struggle embrace two Roman Catholic-affiliated colleges, together with colleges in Bangor, Waterville and Houlton.

Final 12 months, 29 non-public colleges participated within the tuition reimbursement program, enrolling greater than 4,500 college students, officers stated. These colleges that meet the state’s standards can get about $12,000 per pupil in taxpayer funding.

Up to now, just one non secular college has signed as much as take part, and that utility will undergo a overview course of, stated Marcus Mrowka, a state schooling spokesperson. Mrowka declined to determine the college.

The deadline for functions is Thursday.

Michael Bindas is a senior legal professional on the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian regulation agency that represented the households who sued. He stated he’s not stunned the faculties are gradual to resolve whether or not to take part, due to the questions raised by the legal professional normal.

“These open questions, nevertheless, can be resolved in time, and we actually anticipate non secular colleges to take part,” he stated.

It’s extra probably that there can be a higher affect within the 2023-24 college 12 months, stated Carroll Conley, government director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, and a former Christian college headmaster.

“Individuals need to see it occurring, however colleges are being cautious. It’s a giant change,” Conley stated.

There have been a number of lawsuits through the years earlier than the U.S. Supreme Court docket’s 6-3 ruling earlier this 12 months, which was hailed as a victory for college alternative proponents — probably giving life to efforts in among the states that haven’t directed taxpayer cash to personal, non secular schooling.

The Affiliation of Christian Colleges Worldwide, a Colorado-based group that promotes Christian schooling, stated the truth that 32 different states have already got a faculty alternative program speaks volumes.

“We hope that the 18 states that do not need college alternative applications will someday have one,” the group stated in an announcement.

In Maine, Legal professional Common Aaron Frey criticized the Supreme Court docket ruling and stated all colleges that settle for public funds, together with non secular colleges, should abide by the Maine Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the idea of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or incapacity. That will imply accepting homosexual and transgender academics and pupils, he stated.

Each Christian colleges related to the lawsuit — Temple Academy in Waterville and Bangor Christian Colleges — have insurance policies that discriminate in opposition to college students and employees on a foundation of sexual orientation or gender id, he stated.

The Rev. Tom Brown, who’s senior pastor and president at Bangor Christian Colleges and an affiliated church, stated in an e mail that the “we’re processing” the legal professional normal’s statements. He confirmed that no college students can be getting state tuition reimbursement this fall.

Officers from Temple Academy didn’t return messages.

The Supreme Court docket ruling doesn’t have an effect on the Carson household as a result of their daughter already graduated from highschool, and is enrolled in school.

However David Carson, of Glenburn, stated it’s irritating to see the authorized victory muddied by the legal professional normal.

“It’s disappointing while you do all this and nothing occurs,” he stated. “It’s form of a circus to me. The Supreme Court docket says one factor, however the state legal professional normal simply does what he needs to do.”

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Comply with David Sharp on Twitter @David_Sharp_AP

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