NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ohio Court Sinks Vouchers On Technicality

May 28, 1999

Ohio's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a Cleveland school- voucher program does not violate the First Amendment. But it did hold the program invalid under a technicality in the state's constitution.

Both supporters and opponents of vouchers claimed victory in the decision.

  • Writing for the majority, Justice Paul Pfeiffer said: "Whatever link between government and religion is created by the school-voucher program is indirect, depending only on the 'genuinely independent and private choices' of individual parents who act for themselves and their children, not for the government."
  • But the Court said that technical provisions in the Ohio Constitution require legislative bills to contain a single subject and to operate uniformly throughout the state.
  • The Ohio voucher program failed those tests, in the Court's view, because it was passed as part of a budget bill and applied only to participating schools in the Cleveland area.
  • Although the Court's ruling officially outlawed the school choice program, its director, Bert Holt, said she was confident Ohio lawmakers would quickly pass a new voucher bill in the current legislative session.

Others are less confident, however. Republicans, who control both the state legislature and the governorship, say it is uncertain whether new legislation will pass. Some Republicans may join with Democrats in defeating any new bill, observers report.

About 3,600 low-income students are enrolled in more than 50 private and religious-affiliated schools under the Cleveland program. Student receive on average about $1,700 in scholarship money that is paid directly to their parents, who decide which school their children will attend.

It is still unclear what will happen to the children participating in the program.

Sources: June Kronholz, "Ohio School Vouchers Are Struck Down, But Proponents Hail Ruling as Victory," Wall Street Journal, and Andrea Billups, "Both Sides Applaud Ohio Court for Ruling on School Vouchers," Washington Times, both May 28, 1999.


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