In the first legal challenge to the Cleveland school choice program, teachers’ unions and other special interest groups filed a lawsuit in state court shortly before the program began in 1996. Choice opponents alleged that the program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as well as the “compelled support” clause of the Ohio Constitution, by allowing participating families to select religious schools. Like state supreme courts in Wisconsin and Arizona, the Ohio Supreme Court in 1999 rejected the unions’ arguments and found school choice constitutional.
The Ohio Supreme Court also invalidated the program as improperly enacted by the legislature. Shortly after that decision, the Ohio Legislature re-enacted the program.
The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program provides children from low-income, inner-city families with publicly funded scholarships to attend the private school of their parents’ choice. (Suburban public schools were invited to join the program, but refused.) The program was implemented as part of a comprehensive effort by the Ohio legislature to aid one of the most troubled public school districts in the country. For more information about school choice in Cleveland and nationwide, visit our comprehensive School Choice Media Kit.
After reviewing each state’s constitutional provisions for passages most relevant to school choice legislation, as well as any case law or legal opinions involving those provisions, IJ found that in nearly every state in the union, a well-designed school choice program is viable.