Tax Cut Bill passes in Congress and signed by Presidential Trump (12.23.17)

In mid-December both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the Tax Cut (Reform) Bill of 2017, which President Trump signed into law on December 23.  Of the many provisions included in this bill (H.R.25), here a few highlights that impact non-public schools –

  • Expansion of 529 Accounts – Allows families to cover costs associated with K-12 education, including private and homeschool families.  Previously this was allowed only for college education, now expanded to also cover K-12.
  • Tax-free tuition benefits – Continues to allow K-12 private school employers to provide tax free tuition benefits to their faculty and staff.  
  • Tax-free employee educational assistance – Up to $5,250 annually (for such expenses as graduate school degrees) has been retained.
  • Annual tax deduction of $250 for classroom supplies – Has also been retained.  

NMANS wishes to thank all of the many schools and individuals in New Mexico, along with CAPE and state CAPE affiliates nationwide for their emails and phone calls to their representatives during this process.  Your efforts made a great impact and helped to protect /provide the above benefits for all private schools in America!

Textbook Loan Program case heads back to State Supreme Court (12.18.17)

In November, 2014 the New Mexico Supreme Court voted 5-0 to overturn the two previous appellate court rulings which protected the textbook loan program for all schools, including non-public schools.  The case now known as “Moses v. Skandera”, has drawn national attention and has many states and legal experts carefully watching the outcome.

In December, 2014 NMANS, along with others (including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberties) brought the case back into court in the hope of getting the decision overturned.  Much of the court’s decision rest upon an outdated clause in many state constitutions known as the “Blaine amendment”.  In hearing this case in 2014, the New Mexico State Supreme Court acknowledged its (Blaine amendments’) bias toward the Catholic Church and Catholic schools.

Historical background: In 1875 Congressman James Blaine (ME) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to stop government funding of Catholic Schools, as Blaine was a Protestant Christian and felt that only evangelical Christianity should be taught in public schools.  While the amendment failed to gain entry into the Constitution, many states (29 in total, including New Mexico -which is astounding considering the long history and charitable work of the Catholic Church in our state) adopted similar language now known as “mini-Blaines”.  SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas once described these “mini-Blaines” as “antiquated and historically bigoted amendments”, yet they continue on today and have become a basis for the State Supreme Court decision of 2014.  

2016 saw little change in the status of this case, although many statewide including NMANS continued their efforts to overturn the verdict in the hope of returning over $1 million in instructional materials back to the children and families of our non-public schools in New Mexico.  

June, 2017 – A breakthrough occurs as SCOTUS overturns a similar state level decision in “Trinity Lutheran Church of Colombia (MO)”.  The case originated when Trinity Lutheran’s pre-school was prohibited from participating in a state grant program which provided playground safety materials for schools in the St. Louis area.  In making this 6-3 decision the Supreme Court also remanded several other cases back to the states, including our case here in New Mexico.  (NMANS filed a cert petition to SCOTUS for appeal in 2016.)  On December 18, 2017 NMANS, along with the Becket Fund and an Albuquerque based law firm filed for our case to be reheard in 2018.  NMANS is optimistic that this decision can be overturned based upon the recent ruling of SCOTUS.