The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that faith-based schools cannot be excluded from financial assistance, allowing students who get money through tax credit-funded programs to use that money regardless if the school of their choice is religious or secular.
The court’s 5-to-4 decision ruled religious schools should have the same access to funds as other private schools.
In Tulsa, schools like Peace Academy, told News On 6 they are relieved that students will still get financial help no matter where they go.
"This is the dream of all private schools: School choice,” said Nuredith Giayash, director of Peace Academy. “I think this will help us succeed. This will help us improve our education because all private schools, one of the challenges is funding."
Giayash said the Islamic school has 230 students and about half rely on financial assistance.
"We are all taxpayers and I think we have that right,” said Giayash.
In the deciding case, Espinoza versus Montana Department of Revenue, opponents argued public tax money should not go to support religious organizations.
Andrew Spiropoulos, an Oklahoma City University law professor, worked on the brief that brought attention to the court about Oklahoma's programs.
"This Supreme Court decision is so clear that I don't think there's any doubt that it applies to Oklahoma as well,” said Spiropoulos. “The Oklahoma language and our state constitution is very similar to that of Montana's. The program is almost exactly the same."
Spiropoulos is referring to the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, a non-profit that helps students pay to attend private schools.
"It's the students who are choosing where to go, they're the ones making the choice ultimately, so the government is supporting them, the students, not the schools," said Spiropoulos.
News On 6 also reached out to the Oklahoma Education Association for reaction.
OEA calls the ruling "fundamentally wrong."
In a statement, OEA president Alicia Priest said:
“The Supreme Court's radical ruling in the Espinoza case furthers the schemes of Betsy DeVos and others to defund public education. Just at a time when public schools are grappling with devastating budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conservative court joined the far-right and became complicit in the privatization efforts of those seeking to profit from public goods and services. This is fundamentally wrong."