Economic Liberty
First Amendment
Occupational Speech

California Trade Schools Oral Argument

  • IJ joined with Bob Smith, owner of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, to challenge a California law that made it illegal for trade schools like Bob’s to admit students who hadn’t first graduated from high school or passed a government-approved equivalency exam.
  • The federal government uses a similar “ability to benefit” requirement to screen applicants for federally funded student loans and grants, but California’s requirement applied to all students, even those paying their own way. Moreover, students don’t learn about horseshoeing, or other trades, in high school, and equivalency exams only test students’ knowledge of math, social studies, science, and language arts. Stopping students from learning a trade because they can’t do algebra or fix a run-on sentence is a violation of students’ First Amendment right to learn—and of teachers’ First Amendment right to teach.
  • In June 2020, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled California’s ability to benefit requirement unconstitutional, prompting the California State Assembly to repeal the law—a major victory for Bob, his students, and anyone who speaks for a living in California.
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