U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Arizona School Choice Decision

John Kramer
John Kramer · October 4, 1999

Washington, D.C.-The Institute for Justice, the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm that has defended the constitutionality of school choice programs in eight states, indicated it was not surprised that the U.S. Supreme Court decided today not to review the January ruling of the Arizona Supreme Court, which upheld the state’s income tax credit for contributions to private school scholarship funds.

“This marks the second time in less than a year that the U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a state supreme court decision affirming the constitutionality of school choice,” declared Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Institute for Justice, which argued the case in the Arizona Supreme Court on behalf of Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Schools Lisa Graham Keegan, taxpayers, and families. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court also declined to review the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. As a result, more than 8,000 low-income Milwaukee children have escaped from the troubled Milwaukee Public Schools and instead are currently attending the private school of their parents’ choice.

Assessing the overall impact of today’s action by the High Court, Bolick said, “The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision will now resonate widely as a major First Amendment precedent. Clearly, the momentum remains on the side of school choice supporters.”

Still, constitutional issues remain. School choice cases are pending in lower courts in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. As in Arizona, the Institute for Justice is defending school choice in each state. The Institute has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision of the Maine Supreme Court upholding the exclusion of religious schools from Maine’s school choice program. The Court is expected to announce later this month whether it will review the Maine ruling.

“This is a major victory for the children of Arizona,” stated Bolick. “Because of the Court’s action today, thousands of students will be afforded high-quality educational opportunities they would otherwise be denied.”