President's weekly report — July 3, 2015

July 03, 2015 | By ROB RIVETT

Supreme Court to hear teachers’ union politicking case

The Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear  Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case filed by the Center for Individual Rights.  Presently, all public school teachers must contribute their “fair share” to a teachers’ union in California to cover the costs of collective bargaining.  And if a teacher doesn’t want to also support the union’s political activities, the teacher must go through an arcane and time-limited “opt-out” procedure.  Recently, the some members of the Court questioned this practice in two cases — Knox v. Service Employees International Union and Harris v. Quinn.  A couple of years ago we filed  our amicus brief  in Knox suggesting that such “opt-out” procedures reversed the constitutional order of things: teachers may be allowed affirmatively “opt-in” to support a union’s politicking, rather than be forced to go through a burdensome procedure to “opt-out.”  Several of the justices agreed this was an important issue, but deferred resolution to another day. With the grant in Friedrichs, that day is here.  We filed this brief asking the Court to take review and we’ll be filing another brief on the merits.  Under the First Amendment, no one should be forced through procedural machinations a cause in which he does not believe.  As Thomas Jefferson put it, “That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Back to the Supreme Court — racial preferences at the University of Texas at Austin

Fisher v University of Texas, Austin The Supreme Court granted certiorari this week to determine the following question: Whether the Fifth Circuit’s re-endorsement of the University of Texas at Austin’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions decisions can be sustained under this Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  That was the case where the Court ruled that such preferences are subject to strict scrutiny.  The Fifth Circuit, however, purported to still find the preferences legal and so Fisher again sought review.  PLF’s amicus brief in support of Fisher is here.  Our blog post on the case is here.

Loss in Colorado school choice case

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its decision in the LaRue v. Douglas County School District school choice case in Colorado. The Supreme Court reversed an appellate court ruling that allowed a Choice Scholarship Program that provided scholarships to students attending private schools-even those run by religious organizations. The Friedman Foundation, in this article, concludes that the “Douglas County leaders may now take the Blaine Amendment issue to the Supreme Court of the United States, an opportunity that has long been awaited by the school choice community.” The Blaine Amendment refers to constitutional provisions that exist in state constitutions which forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have any religious affiliation.  PLF filed an amicus brief arguing that the element of parental choice avoided any constitutional problem, but the Colorado court did not agree.  For more detail, see our blog post.