The debate over which is superior — private or public schooling — has gone on for almost as long as there has been formal education. Religious institutions have historically played a big role in establishing credible private options, especially in the United States. The benefits and negatives of both have been argued back and forth for decades, but soon the New Mexico Supreme Court will be forced to make a decision regarding funding in their state.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, a case involving the state’s purchasing of textbooks for private schools has made its way through the legal system and now lies with the high court in New Mexico.
Considering that most private schools (86%) have fewer than 300 students enrolled, it might seem trivial, but there is real money at stake. The plaintiffs in the case, Cathy Moses and Paul Weinbaum, have argued that almost $2 million is “robbed” from public schools every year to pay for textbooks for private school students.
“This has been going on for years and years, and everybody knows that it’s wrong,” Weinbaum told the Las Cruces Sun-News Thursday. “They’re using public funds to buy books for private schools, which typically serve more elite students. Those people have the right to send their children to public schools, but they choose not to.”
Unfortunately for Weinbaum and Moses, the preceding courts that have heard the case have all ruled in favor of the private schools. The argument for the use of state funding for private school supplies has been based on the fact that there is nothing implicitly in the state’s constitution that specifically forbids this practice, and perhaps more importantly, that it is still serving the best interest of the state.
“It’s supporting children,”argued the attorney for the Public Education Department, Susan Hapka. “The state benefits from this.”
But one of the judges, Justice Richard Bosson, did touch on the ancillary benefits that may be associated from this program with one line of questioning. He asked if the money saved from not having to buy textbooks funds new computers, or raises in teachers’ salaries. The defense did not know the answer.
Whether or not the high court decides to rule in favor of private schools or not could set a precedent of looser, or more stringent, policies involving such entities going forward.