U.S. Supreme Court May Review Injunction of Cleveland’s School Choice Program

John Kramer
John Kramer · October 29, 1999

Washington, D.C.-The U.S. Supreme Court has another opportunity to consider constitutional issues related to school choice. The Associated Press reported in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer that, “the full U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to block an order that temporarily bars some students from Ohio’s school voucher program.”

On August 24, 1999, only 18 hours before public schools opened, a federal judge in Ohio granted an injunction that halted the Pilot Project Scholarship Program, a four-year-old school choice program that allows Cleveland parents to choose the school-public or private-that their children attend. On August 27, after much public outcry, Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. then partially retracted his own ruling, allowing 3,062 scholarship students who participated in the program in prior years to continue attending private schools. But 794 new students, who were notified on March 15 that they would receive scholarships, were excluded from participating thereby creating the prospect that they would have to leave their private schools and return to public schools. Judge Oliver also indicated the stay is good only for one semester, raising the prospect of disruption in the middle of the school year.

The Institute for Justice and the State of Ohio immediately filed an emergency appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to have the injunction overturned. The State of Ohio filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking similar action.

According to the Plain Dealer story, “Justice John Paul Stevens, who handles emergency matters for Ohio, referred the matter yesterday [October 28] to the court, which was scheduled to discuss it today. There is no deadline for the justices to reach or to announce a decision.”

“This outrageous injunction has disrupted the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute’s litigation director. “Injunctions are supposed to preserve the status quo, but this action turned these kids’ world upside down.”

Cleveland’s voucher program pays up to $2,250 per pupil for low-income schoolchildren to attend any of 56 private schools in Cleveland. Nearly 4,000 students from kindergarten through sixth grade have signed up to participate in the program.