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Friends of Choice Join Together As Friends of the Court

January 2002

Friends of Choice Join Together As Friends of the Court

By Bob Freedman

Amicus Briefson the IJ website

View these briefs

American Education Reform Council Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Center for Individual Freedom, Cato Institute, Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, and Goldwater Institute Christian Legal Society, et al. Children First America, et al. Center for Education Reform, et al. Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence Cleveland City Councilwoman Fannie Lewis Constitutional Law Professors Brief by Jesse Choper with 37 other law professors Florida Governor Jeb Bush with Florida Attorney General Robert Butterworth National Association of Independent Schools New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson Pacific Legal Foundation, et al. Reach Alliance Solidarity Center for Law and Justice State of Wisconsin U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Vermonters for Better Education

More than 100 individuals and organizations combined to write 28 different amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs to support the Cleveland school choice program. These choice supporters are as prominent and diverse as they are numerous. They include the U.S. Solicitor General, Ted Olson, three state governors, six state attorneys general, two mayors, 37 constitutional law professors, as well as non-religious and religious private school organizations.

Each of the briefs presents the Court with a unique perspective supporting the constitutionality of school choice. The brief written by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, for example, highlights the paradox of America’s current system of public education. Some of the best universities in the world are located in America’s cities, yet these universities are within walking distance of some of the worst elementary schools in the country. Mayors Giuliani and Norquist believe school choice is a policy that will improve primary and secondary schools.

To help persuade the Court that school choice programs are constitutional, 37 law professors joined a brief written by Professor Jesse Choper, the former dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, supporting the Cleveland program. Dean Choper recognized that the Court has not articulated any single test that determines whether a program does or does not violate the Establishment Clause. Rather, he analyzed the general themes of the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence and demonstrated how the Cleveland program is in compliance with these jurisprudential themes. Further, Professor Choper examined the secular value of an education. His brief concluded that so long as the state is getting full value for its money (providing education to individual children for no more money than it would pay to educate them in the public school system) then the state is procuring an education–not establishing religion.

Other amicus briefs, such as the briefs filed by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the American Education Reform Council, present strong empirical data supporting the positive effects of school choice. Several of these briefs are available to download.

Bob Freedman is an Institute for Justice staff attorney.

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