Parents File Cleveland School Choice Appeal; Lament Latest Public School Failures

John Kramer
John Kramer · January 12, 2000

Washington, D.C.-Attorneys for families defending the Cleveland scholarship program will file an appeal today in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

“We are confident the program will be upheld on appeal,” declared Clint Bolick, litigation director for the Institute for Justice, the Washington, D.C.-based public interest firm that represents the families. “This program fulfills the promise of equal educational opportunities for children who need them desperately.”

Underscoring the necessity of the program, which serves nearly 4,000 economically disadvantaged children, is the recent report that the Cleveland City Public Schools failed to meet a single one of 27 state performance criteria. As a result, the state has declared a “state of academic emergency” in the district.

“Given the appalling conditions in the Cleveland public schools, we need every life preserver we can find,” Bolick declared.

A Plain Dealer report quotes school district spokesman William Wendling as saying, “This is going to take time.”

“These kids don’t have time,” Bolick rejoined. “School choice gives several thousand children a chance for a decent education exactly when they need it: now. The program also provides a competitive prod for public schools to finally get the job done.”

In light of recent reports that one of the 57 private schools in the school choice program defrauded the state, Bolick lauded efforts to remove the program’s administration from “bureaucrats of questionable competence.” He said, “No one wants efficient administration of the program more than the families themselves. But we’ve got to be careful not to condemn the program due to one bad apple. The focus should be on the kids, and the kids are doing great.”

The attorneys on both sides have agreed to a proposed schedule for the Sixth Circuit appeal. Under the schedule, briefing will be completed by late May, with an oral argument date set by the court to follow. After having an injunction against the program overturned in November by the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys for the teachers’ unions and others challenging the program have agreed not to try to disrupt the program again while the appeal continues.

“With all the commotion swirling around, the children are getting a good education,” Bolick declared. “That’s what the program is all about.”