Research News

Underwood examines three cases from Supreme Court term with big implications for education

August 06, 2019

In Julie Underwood’s latest Under the Law column for Phi Delta Kappan magazine, she discusses three cases from the 2018-2019 Supreme Court term that have big implications for education. 

Underwood is UW–Madison's Susan Engeleiter Professor of Education Law, Policy, and Practice. 

The three cases — American Legion vs. American Humanist Association (2019), Kisor vs. Wilkie (2019), and Department of Commerce v. State of New York (2019) — also reveal deep divisions in the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Underwood. 

Underwood reviews all three cases, which vary in topic from religion in public schools to a disability claim for post-traumatic stress disorder that has implications for government agencies like the Department of Education. 

In American Legion vs. American Humanist Association (2019), the court agreed 7-2 that a cross placed on public land and maintained by the state did not violate the Establishment Clause. Underwood explains that the court had found that the cross had historical significance that goes beyond the religious symbolism. 

Underwood also discusses Department of Commerce vs. State of New York (2019), which involved Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision to insert a citizenship question in the 2010 U.S. Census. She explains that the outcome of the census forms the basis of allocation of federal funds for education, including the National School Lunch Program, Title I aid for students, grants under individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Head Start preschool program. According to the Council of great City Schools, the predicted undercount of 5.8 percent of households with undocumented family members would likely result in a reallocation of $151.7 million just through Title I. 

Read Underwood’s column here