NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cleveland Parents Frantic Over Voucher Decision

August 26, 1999

The decision of a federal district judge to block Cleveland's voucher program on the very day before school was set to start has thrown the parents of voucher-eligible children into a panic, according to reports. Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. says he needs more time to determine if the vouchers -- which are frequently used for education in religious schools -- violate the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

News reports have quoted a number of parents as saying they intend to work at extra jobs in order to earn enough to keep their children out of the city's notoriously poor public schools.

  • The ruling suspends the use of vouchers -- financed through public education funds -- for some 4,000 students at 56 schools.
  • School officials in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese have been advising parents not to pull children out of schools until the case works its way through the courts -- but some smaller religious schools are expressing doubt about their survival without vouchers.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in an editorial entitled "Voucher Vulture," charged that the last-minute ruling threw families and schools into needless fear and confusion -- calling the decision "an act of arrogance, carelessness and utter disregard for the needs of children across the city."
  • The Wall Street Journal commented editorially that "a good share of four years' work by Ohio parents and legislators to make the voucher program a reality has been undone with a single stroke of a rogue judge's pen."

A 1989 nationwide study of 1,500 schools by the University of Chicago found that religious schools had a lower dropout rate than both public schools and nonreligious private schools. Cleveland public schools, on the other hand, have struggled for decades with low test scores and teacher dissension.

There were more than 17,000 applicants for the 4,000 available vouchers, which pay up to $2,250 toward tuition at schools chosen by parents. The Institute for Justice, lawyers for the voucher program, have lodged an emergency appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Sources: Dirk Johnson, "Many Cleveland Parents Frantic as Voucher Ruling Limits Choice," New York Times, and Editorial, "Suffer the Children," Wall Street Journal, both August 26, 1999.


Browse more articles on Education Issues