Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 509 U.S. 1, 12 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

Respondent's reliance on Meek and Ball is misplaced for two reasons. First, the programs in Meek and Ball— through direct grants of government aid—relieved sectarian schools of costs they otherwise would have borne in educating their students. See Witters, 474 U. S., at 487 ("[T]he State may not grant aid to a religious school, whether cash or in kind, where the effect of the aid is 'that of a direct subsidy to the religious school' from the State") (quoting Ball, supra, at 394). For example, the religious schools in Meek received teaching material and equipment from the State, relieving them of an otherwise necessary cost of performing their educational function. 421 U. S., at 365-366. "Substantial aid to the educational function of such schools," we explained, "necessarily results in aid to the sectarian school enterprise as a whole," and therefore brings about "the direct and substantial advancement of religious activity." Id., at 366. So, too, was the case in Ball: The programs challenged there, which provided teachers in addition to instructional equipment and material, "in effect subsidize[d] the religious functions of the parochial schools by taking over a substantial portion of their responsibility for teaching secular subjects." 473 U. S., at 397. "This kind of direct aid," we determined, "is indistinguishable from the provision of a direct cash subsidy to the religious school." Id., at 395. The extension of aid to petitioners, however, does not amount to "an impermissible 'direct subsidy' " of Salpointe, Witters, supra, at 487, for Salpointe is not relieved of an expense that it otherwise would have assumed in educating its students. And, as we noted above, any attenuated financial benefit that parochial schools do ultimately receive from the IDEA is attributable to "the private choices of individual parents." Mueller, 463 U. S., at 400. Disabled children, not sectarian schools, are the primary beneficiaries of the IDEA; to the extent sectarian schools benefit at all from the IDEA, they are only incidental beneficiaries. Thus, the function of the IDEA is hardly " 'to provide desired financial

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