NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Voucher Focus Moves to State Legislatures, Courts

July 1, 2002

The future of the school choice and voucher movements is now in the hands of legislators at the state level and courts, supporters say.

  • More than two dozen state legislatures have considered vouchers, but failed to approve them in recent years.
  • At the same time, a second battle line will form in the lower courts over provisions in the constitutions of some three dozen states which guarantee church-state separation.
  • Groups opposing vouchers -- such as the National Education Association, the National PTA and civil liberties groups -- are joining together to lobby against them at the state level.
  • Meanwhile, voucher opponents in Congress plan to block any attempt to establish a national voucher program by the federal government.

But there is evidence of growing support for vouchers among former opponents. Young black activists sympathetic to vouchers can now be found in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). There is even divided opinion within the Democratic Party, with its strong historical ties to teachers' unions and their substantial political contributions.

Finally, public opinion -- particularly among minorities -- is swinging to favor vouchers. A 1999 poll by Public Agenda found that 68 percent of African-Americans said they strongly or somewhat favor vouchers, along with 65 percent of Hispanics. Support among the general public stood at 57 percent.

Some supporters are already scouting for federal test cases that will allow them to use last week's Supreme Court decision to challenge state constitutions. "Our goal is to go with a few test cases and then establish a national precedent," says Clint Bolick, of the Institute for Justice. "We don't have to challenge all of them."

Sources: Jill Carroll and Leila Abboud, "School Voucher Debate Frays Traditional Alliances: Opposing Sides of the Issue Vow to Continue their Battle in State Houses Across the U.S.;" and Daniel Golden and Robert Tomsho, "Civil Rights Organizations See Some Members Break Ranks to Back School Choice Programs," both in Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2002.


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