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The Boston-based Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research has produced a documentary exploring legal impediments to educational opportunity both in Massachusetts and around the country. The documentary, titled “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws,” features four families impacted by laws prohibiting state money from supporting student attendance to religiously affiliated schools. As the national dialogue around school choice continues to grow, this new film provides an in-depth look at parents who are denied much-needed aid for their children’s educations.
“The goal of ‘Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America's Bigoted Education Laws’ is to focus attention on the legal barriers that block school choice in our country, and the bigotry that inspired the creation of those barriers,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute.
Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws
Nativist sentiment and vitriol targeted against immigrant Catholics and spearheaded by the Know-Nothing party in the 19th century led to a handful of amendments to state constitutions that restrict government funding of religiously affiliated schools. According to Pioneer Institute, such amendments – commonly referred to as Blaine amendments – exist in 38 of the 50 states and prevent more students from enrolling in religious and private schools. Massachusetts was a bastion of the Know-Nothing movement and has the oldest version of anti-aid amendments in the nation.
“American K-12 school dollars should follow the student, as they do in higher education with government-funded college loans and scholarships,” Stergios continued. “Then, parents — not the state — could choose from a variety of public, private, and parochial-school options for their children. We hope ‘Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams’ will be seen and shared by millions of people who can energize and identify activists in their states, especially those with Blaine amendments. In just the first week of the film’s release, over half-a-million people across the country watched the film. Rather than ignore our past bigotry, states like Massachusetts should open a public debate about these nativist amendments, and repeal them.”