IJ Arizona Chapter Again Calls for Dismissal Of Frivolous Anti-School Choice Lawsuit

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · September 27, 2004

Phoenix, AZ.—Today the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter again asked a federal district judge to dismiss a frivolous legal challenge to Arizona’s innovative Educational Tax Credit program. The Institute filed the amended motion to dismiss on behalf of the Arizona School Choice Trust, a scholarship-granting organization, and parents whose children receive scholarships from ASCT.

“This lawsuit was frivolous when it was originally filed four years ago, and it has become more absurd in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding school choice programs,” declared IJ-AZ Executive Director Tim Keller. “The U.S. and Arizona supreme courts could not be more clear: allowing parents to freely choose the best school for their children is constitutional. The court should put an end to this last-ditch effort by opponents of school choice to halt meaningful education reform.”

IJ’s amended motion to dismiss argues that the federal district court lacks jurisdiction over the current lawsuit, filed by the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, because both the Arizona Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have already ruled on the same claims raised in this second case.

In 1999, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld scholarship tax credits in a landmark decision, Kotterman v. Killian. Teachers’ unions and other special interest groups charged that because some scholarship recipients attend religious schools, the program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as well as the Arizona Constitution. In a strongly worded opinion, the Court rejected those claims and criticized choice opponents for relying on a provision of the state Constitution that it called “a clear manifestation of religious bigotry.” The U.S. Supreme Court later agreed that school choice does not violate the Establishment Clause when it upheld Cleveland’s voucher program in 2002.

Despite those rulings, in the current federal lawsuit before the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona the AzCLU contends that the scholarship tax credit violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

“Arizona’s Tuition Scholarship Tax Credit provides thousands of Arizona children the opportunity for a better education, and there are thousands more eager families on waiting lists,” Keller said. “There is no legal reason to invalidate this program and dozens of policy reasons to affirm it. At a time when we need to expand opportunities for parents and children to choose the school that works best for them, it is shameful the AzCLU is seeking to limit school choice.”

The Institute for Justice has successfully defended school vouchers in Cleveland and Milwaukee and tax credits in Illinois and Arizona. IJ is also currently defending Florida’s groundbreaking Opportunity Scholarships program.