NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

When Will The Supreme Court Consider School Choice?

June 22, 1999

Both proponents and opponents agree that school vouchers and other educational-choice issues will ultimately wind up before the Supreme Court. The central issue is whether publicly-funded vouchers can be used by parents to send their children to church- related schools.

  • State courts in Vermont and Maine have ruled that the use of tax dollars for tuition at religious schools is unconstitutional.
  • But courts in Wisconsin, Ohio and Arizona have ruled in favor of school-choice programs that include religious schools.
  • Education experts say that tax-funded vouchers are typically large enough to cover only the tuition costs of religious schools.
  • If religious schools are not included in school-choice programs, many poor families couldn't afford the high tuitions most other private schools charge.

Court observers predict that high court hearings on one of three cases will determine the future of school choice.

In a Maine case, Bagley vs. Raymond School Department, the court ruled against a family which wanted their children to go to a Catholic school on public tuition money. In another decision, Strout vs. State of Maine, a federal appeals court ruled that religious schools were excluded by the state's tuition program. Finally, the Arizona Supreme court affirmed the right of students to use state tax credits to attend religious schools, in Kotterman vs. Killian.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Is School Choice on the Docket?" Investor's Business Daily, Dune 22, 1999.


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