Washington, D.C.-.—”The Supreme Court deserves thanks from every American committed to educational opportunity,” declared Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice, upon hearing the Court’s decision to review a ruling striking down Cleveland’s six-year-old school choice program for economically disadvantaged children.
“We will do everything possible to remove the constitutional cloud from this vibrant education reform, once and for all,” Bolick vowed.
Bolick and the Washington-based Institute for Justice have defended the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program and other school choice programs around the nation on behalf of economically disadvantaged families participating in them.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down the program by a 2-1 vote as an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the program against the same challenge in 1999.
“We will demonstrate to the Court that this program is not about religion, it’s about providing educational opportunities to children who desperately need them,” said Bolick.
The program provides $2,250 scholarships to 4,000 children who may use them at participating private or suburban public schools. No suburban public schools chose to participate, but more than 50 private schools agreed to accept choice students with a tuition cap of $2,500.
Meanwhile, in its most recent evaluation, the Cleveland Public Schools satisfied only three of the state’s 27 performance criteria.
“This is the most important educational opportunity case since Brown v. Board of Education,” said Bolick. “If the Court upholds this program, it will vindicate at last the promise of equal educational opportunities.”
THE INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE CAN MAKE AVAILABLE SCHOOL CHOICE DATA, LEGAL BACKGROUND AND INTERVIEWS WITH SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES UPON REQUEST.
The Court agreed to review the first of two questions presented to it in the case. That question asks, “Does a program designed to rescue economically disadvantaged children from a failing public school system by providing scholarships that they may use in private, religious or suburban public schools that choose to participate in the program—and which operates in the context of a broad array of public school choices—violate the First Amendment because in the early stages of the program most of the schools that have agreed to take on scholarship students are religiously affiliated?”