Maine School Choice

Bagley v. Raymond
IJ and Maine Parents Challenged Exclusion of Religious Options from School Choice  

For well over a century, Maine parents in rural towns without public schools have enjoyed the right to select the school that best suits their children’s educational needs.  The town then pays tuition to the school that the parents choose.  Parents who live in “tuitioning towns” are free to pick any school for their children—public or private, in-state or out-of-state.  For most of its existence, this statewide “tuitioning” system permitted the selection of religious schools.  But in 1981, the state came to believe that the inclusion of religious options violated the federal Establishment Clause and excised them from the system.

Maine law singles out religious schools, and religious schools only, for discrimination, prohibiting towns from paying tuition to any school that is “sectarian.”  In 1997 the Institute for Justice filed Bagley v. Town of Raymond, a lawsuit that challenges the exclusion of religious schools from Maine’s school choice program on behalf of five families in Maine tuitioning towns.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the exclusion of religious schools in 1999, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: for Raymond, Maine School Choice

Client Photo - none available

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: U.S. Supreme Court Denies Review In Maine School Choice Case (October 12, 1999)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

none available

Launch Release: Maine Parents Sue for School Choice, Parents Seek to Send Children to Religious Schools (July 30, 1997)

Case Timeline

Lawsuit Filed:  


July 31, 1997

Court Filed:


Cumberland County Superior Court



April 23, 1998: Cumberland County judge upheld discriminatory exclusion of religious options from tuitioning program



April 23, 1999: Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld exclusion of religious options



Case Completed

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Institute to Appeal Tuitioning Decision (April 23, 1998)







Op-eds, News Articles and Links


Video: Where does the alphabet end?; (August 23, 2010)

Article: After 200 Years, School Choice Loses in Maine (May 3, 1999)

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Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
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