Washington, D.C.-The Institute for Justice, the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm that defends school choice programs across the nation and represents families in defense of the Cleveland program, denounced today’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit striking down the Cleveland program.
“The same Constitution that guarantees educational opportunities has been turned on its head to subvert them,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute’s litigation director and lead lawyer for the families.
“This decision is a disaster for every schoolchild in America, but it will be short-lived,” Bolick said. “This is the U.S. Supreme Court test case we’ve been waiting for to remove the constitutional cloud from school choice once and for all.”
The decision to strike down the program was 2-1. Judge James Ryan dissented, analyzing Supreme Court precedent that makes it “unmistakably clear that the voucher program passes constitutional muster.”
The Institute’s lawyers believe the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case. The Court voted 5-4 in November 1999 to dissolve an injunction against the program issued by U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver. While the Supreme Court has issued six consecutive rulings upholding programs analogous to school choice, lower courts are split over the constitutionality of school choice, which increases the odds that the High Court will hear the case. Indeed, this decision conflicts with a 1999 Ohio Supreme Court decision upholding the same program on First Amendment grounds.
“If this program is allowed to die, 4,000 low-income kids will be forced to leave the only good schools they’ve ever attended,” Bolick concluded. “The Supreme Court won’t allow that to happen without considering their plight.”