Washington, D.C.-In a long-awaited opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court today ruled that the Cleveland scholarship program does not violate the First Amendment, but invalidated it on technical provisions of the Ohio Constitution.
“This ruling decisively demonstrates that parental choice is constitutional,” declared Clint Bolick, litigation director at the Institute for Justice, the Washington-based public interest firm that defended the program on behalf of parents and children. “Once again, the kids won and the special-interest groups lost.” The Institute successfully defended school choice programs in the Wisconsin and Arizona Supreme Courts, and will defend the recently enacted Florida program against an expected legal challenge this summer.
The Institute called upon the Ohio Legislature to promptly pass the program as a separate bill in the current session so that children who have been participating in the program since 1997 will not lose their educational opportunities.
The program allows approximately 3,000 low-income children to receive $2250 scholarships for 90 percent of tuition in private and religious schools. The median income of families participating in the program is less than $7,000.
Justice Paul Pfeiffer wrote for the majority that “[w]hatever link between government and religion is created by the School Voucher Program is indirect, depending only on the `genuinely independent and private choices’ of individual parents, who act for themselves and their children, not for the government.”
The ruling on the religious establishment challenges raised under the First Amendment and state constitution was 4-0, with three justices declining to reach those issues. The ruling on the “single subject” issue was 5-2.