WASHINGTON, (February 3, 1997) -- The General Counsel of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) applauded a federal district court decision which upheld the constitutionality of the federal program that provides instructional materials to private school students.
"I am very pleased with the decision of the federal district court in Louisiana to uphold the constitutionality of the federal assistance program providing instructional materials to private school students," said Mark E. Chopko. "That program, often referred to as Chapter 2 (for its place within a larger federal education statute), is religion neutral. It provides federal support to states and localities to assure that necessary equipment is available to students, regardless of the schools their parents choose for them. The Supreme Court has, in recent years, recognized that such programs are not violations of our Establishment Clause simply because some of the benefited students attend religiously affiliated schools. That result is a common sense approach to constitutional law and will aussure that more students receive the assistance that Congress intended. I applaud the decision of the court."
Under the federal Chapter 2 program, instructional materials are made available to private (including religious) schools. Federal money allows states and local educational agencies to purchase such things as library books, computers, filmstrip projectors, and audio tapes, and do teacher training and other noninstructional things. In the last 15 years, Chapter 2 has twice been challenged, in Louisiana, and in California in tandem with an attack on Chapter 1/Title 1 (the federal remedial education program at issue in the Aguila decision, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to review). USCC supports the intervention of Catholic school parents in both cases.
In 1990, the Louisiana federal court ruled Chapter 2 unconstitutional. A final judgment on a myriad of other programs was entered in 1994. "Post judgment motions" including a request to reconsider the Chapter 2 decision have been pending for nearly three years. On January 30 that motion was granted and the court reversed itself and ruled Chapter 2 constitutional.
It did so on the strength of the California case which was decided in the interim between 1990 and 1994. That case, Walker v. San Francisco Unified School District, upheld the program as providing a neutral benefit available to all school children regardless of the schools they attend.