The ACLU and its allies among the national and state teachers unions have attacked school voucher programs wherever they appear. Though the US Supreme Court and several state high courts have ruled in favor of vouchers that provide state aid to students leaving inadequate public schools, the latest case is a temporary victory in Arizona over the needs of disabled and foster children. It is an intermediate appeals court ruling that will probably go to that state’s supreme court.
The facts for this story, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article from the Associated Press on 15 May, as published on azcentral.com. An intermediate appeals court in Arizona has just reversed a trial court ruling, and determined that voucher programs in that state which would allow foster children and disabled children to attend private schools using state vouchers, are unconstitutional.
It isn’t clear from the article whether the ACLU was directly involved in the case. All efforts to shut down voucher programs wherever they appear, are in line with ACLU positions, and are supported by ACLU political allies such as the National Education Association and its state affiliates.
Under the program established by the legislature, foster and disabled children’s parents or guardians could get state grants under certain circumstances to place their children in private schools. Some, but not all. of those schools were parochial. The vouchers were payable to the parents. It was by the parents’ decisions that the money would be paid over to a particular school.
Both the US Supreme Court and the highest courts of several states have previously ruled that there is no discrimination in favor of religion if it is the parents who make the decision on which school their children should attend. This is similar to the millions of federal scholarships given to adult students under the GI Bill from WW II, and its amendments since then. In all those cases, the aid went to the student, and by the student’s choice, to colleges and universities.
The ruling by a panel of the Court of Appeals was based not on the US Constitution, but on a provision in the Arizona Constitution which forbids state moneys from being paid to “to help churches, private schools or religious schools.” The reporter was apparently unaware that this clause is the same as one that appears in some fifteen other state constitutions, and was placed there around the turn of the last century by “progressive” political parties who had a strong antipathy to the Catholic Church and its schools.
Most other courts which have considered that precise clause have followed the same approach as the US Supreme Court. It is, that scholarships or vouchers which are awarded to parents, or to students themselves, do not amount to “state aid” to churches, when students or parents can make an independent choice of where the student will go to school.
It is also true, and the story fails to mention this either, that the public moneys that follow a student who leaves a public school is always less than the full cost of public education for that student. So, contrary to the claims of the education unions in these cases, the public schools gain money, not lose, when students leave, because part of their public support remains behind.
In short, if two-thirds of the students left a public school under a voucher program, the school would then have twice as much money, per student, to educate the remaining students. It is not the loss of funds, but the increase in educational competition, that the unions and the ACLU most fear.
Supporters of the two voucher programs say they intend to ask the Supreme Court of Arizona to review the case.
Source for original story on the Net: