Friday, October 12, 2018

7th Circuit Upholds Wisconsin's Limit on Busing Benefit To One School of Each Denomination In District

In St. Augustine School v. Evers, (7th Cir., Oct. 11, 2018), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1- decision, upheld Wisconsin's statue which requires school districts to bus private school students, but limits the obligation to only one private school affiliated with the same religious denomination or sponsoring group in each attendance district. St. Augustine school did not qualify for busing because another Catholic school in the district qualified first. The majority rejected free exercise and Establishment Clause challenges to the arrangement, saying in part:
The reason why St. Augustine cannot demand services within its desired attendance zone is not because it is a Catholic school; it is because—by its own choice—it professes to be affiliated with a group that already has a school in that zone.  By the same token, Wisconsin is not denying the Forros a transit subsidy because they are Catholic or because they seek to send their children to Catholic school. It funds transportation for all of the Catholic families who send their children to St. Gabriel. The problem for St. Augustine is not that it is Catholic; it is that it is second in line.
Judge Ripple dissented arguing that St. Augustine and St. Gabriel should not be seen as affiliated with the same denomination because St. Augustine is organizationally unaffiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese.