Constitutional Provisions

Blaine Amendments

“No public money shall ever be appropriated for the support of any sectarian or denominational school, or any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools; nor shall any sectarian or denominational doctrine be taught, or instruction thereon be permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this State.” California Const. Art. IX, § 8.

“Neither the Legislature, nor any county, city and county, township, school district, or other municipal corporation, shall ever make an appropriation, or pay from any public fund whatever, or grant anything to or in aid of any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose, or help to support or sustain any school, college, university, hospital, or other institution controlled by any religious creed, church, or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of personal property or real estate ever be made by the state, or any city, city and county, town, or other municipal corporation for any religious creed, church, or sectarian purpose whatever; provided, that nothing in this section shall prevent the Legislature granting aid pursuant to Section 3 of Article XVI.” California Const. Art. XVI, § 5.

Vouchers: No

Tax Credits: Yes

Existing Private School Choice Programs


Relevant Case Law

California Statewide Communities Development Authority v. All Persons Interested, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 1914 (Cal. 2007)
The California Supreme Court held that the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for the benefit of “pervasively sectarian” religious schools would not necessarily violate the state’s second Blaine Amendment (Article XVI, Section 5).

California Teachers Association v. Riles, 632 P.2d 953, 960 (Cal. 1981)
The California Supreme Court held that lending textbooks to private schools violated the state constitution’s Blaine Amendments.

Bowker v. Baker, 167 P.2d 256 (Cal. 1946)
The California Supreme Court held that transporting private school students at public expense is constitutionally acceptable because it is aimed at child safety not education, and any benefit to the school is “incidental.”

Analysis and Recommendations

Tax credits are California’s best option for school choice. Vouchers are problematic given California’s very restrictive interpretation of its Blaine Amendments. That interpretation prevents any public body from the state down to the local school board from allowing any public money from any source whatsoever to go to a religious or private school. California courts have explicitly rejected the distinction between aiding students versus aiding schools.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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