NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

State Constitutional Obstacles to Vouchers

July 10, 2002

Organizations and individuals active in promoting school vouchers and other "school choice" alternatives to failing public schools are busy developing legal strategies. In the wake of last month's Supreme Court decision vindicating the use of vouchers in private religious schools, groups such as the Institute for Justice and the Cato Institute are preparing to challenge state laws which shore up public school monopolies.

  • Supreme courts in 47 states still restrict state legislatures from approving voucher money for "sectarian" private schools under a provision known as the Blaine Amendment.
  • After the Blaine Amendment -- which sought to prevent public money from falling into the hands of private Catholic schools -- failed in Congress in 1875, many states simply amended their own constitutions to adopt the language.
  • At a recent briefing by school-choice advocates, the Cato Institute's David Salisbury said the main battle emerging "will be in state legislatures and will be political in nature" and stressed that the school-choice movement is not yet ready for a central platform.
  • Parental tax credits and scholarship tax credits are the movement's next goals for giving parents the power to decide how to educate their children, Salisbury said.

He predicted that challenges to the state provisions will be successful.

Source: Sean Salai, "Vouchers Backers Plan More Challenges," Washington Times, July 10, 2002.


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