Victory for School Choice!

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · March 7, 2007

Phoenix—Just two days after hearing oral arguments, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge today threw out a legal challenge to Arizona’s new corporate tax credit program. The Institute for Justice and its Arizona Chapter defended the program on behalf of families of modest means who are eligible for private school scholarships thanks to the program.

“This is a huge victory for Arizona schoolchildren and provides legal momentum for all of the state’s school choice programs, including the new scholarships for children with disabilities and foster children,” said Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter, which is also defending the special needs and foster child programs from a legal challenge filed by many of the same school choice opponents.

In Green v. Garriott, the Honorable Janet E. Barton held that the program is completely consistent with the Arizona Constitution and the landmark 1999 Kotterman decision upholding a similar tax credit for individual taxpayers and likewise rejecting a challenge to school choice based on Arizona’s Blaine Amendments.

And the court went further, rejecting a challenge based on the Arizona Constitution’s education provisions as inconsistent with Arizona Supreme Court rulings. Opponents had relied on a ruling against school choice by the Florida Supreme Court, but Judge Barton’s ruling shows that Arizona law does not support the invalid reasoning of the Florida court.

The same claims lie at the heart of opponents’ legal challenge to the scholarship programs for special needs and foster children. In January, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear a legal challenge to those programs. Opponents filed a new lawsuit in trial court last month.

“This is a complete vindication of the constitutionality of school choice in Arizona,” said Chip Mellor, IJ’s president and general counsel. “After so many losses in court, it’s time for opponents to stop their legal campaign against empowering parents to choose the best school for their children.”

IJ successfully defended the individual tax credit program in Kotterman, and is again defending the program from a federal lawsuit. A federal judged dismissed that case, Winn v. Hibbs, and upheld the program in March 2005, and opponents appealed.