Montana Public Radio

Stillwater Christian School

Lockers in an empty school hallway.
PD

Public school students in Montana may miss out on roughly $800,000 in federal aid for laptops, masks and educational services amid the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to a calculation from state education officials after the U.S. Department of Education’s plan for sharing emergency aid with private and home schools was thrown out in court.

U.S. Supreme Court file photo.
PD

The Montana Supreme Court discriminated against religious schools when it invalidated a tax credit program that supported school choice, according to a ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Kendra Espinoza in her Kalispell home  Jan. 14, 2020. Espinoza’s family is front and center in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide whether states like Montana can exclude religious schools from school choice programs.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments both for and against the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to shut down a school choice program it said violated the state constitution’s ban on public money flowing to religious schools. The case may decide whether Montana and other states can exclude religious schools from school choice programs.

Senator Jon Tester fielded questions from Flathead Valley students at a town hall event January 5, 2018
Nicky Ouellet

The sun isn’t even fully up halfway through first period at Glacier High School in Kalispell, but students keep filing into the performance hall, a note card with a question in each of their hands.

Praying with a rosary
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This week, three parents from a Christian school in Kalispell filed a suit over the state’s exclusion of religious schools in a program to provide scholarships for public and private education.

Kendra Espinoza is one of the plaintiffs in the case. She says scholarships are the only reason why she can afford to send her kids to the private religious school she chooses.