The issue of school vouchers is likely headed for a Supreme Court showdown after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Cleveland’s school voucher program as unconstitutional. The logic of the appeals court was so inconsistent with previous Supreme Court rulings that it could once and for all settle any lingering Constitutional questions.
The appeals court’s reasoning makes little sense except as an irrational judicial reaction to the idea of school choice. Cleveland’s voucher program grants up to $2,500 in tuition vouchers for poor families with children in kindergarten through sixth grades. The public schools in Cleveland all refused to participate in the voucher program, and so most — though not all — of the 56 schools that do participate are religious schools.
Since most of the schools are religious in nature, the appeals court said, it is clear that the voucher program is nothing but a veiled attempt to provide public funding to religious institutions even though, as Ryan pointed out, the program’s selection criteria for schools is based on neutral, secular standards.
Fortunately, the appeals court is likely on very weak ground. In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that Milwaukee’s voucher program, which also involved public funds being spent at religious schools, was Constitutional. Hopefully it will follow through on that principle and allow parents to send their children to the best possible schools rather than forcing the atrocious state-run schools urban schools on them.
Ruling against vouchers could head to high court. The Associated Press, December 12, 2000.