John Kramer
John Kramer · June 10, 1998

Washington, D.C. ­In the most important ruling ever on school choice, the Wisconsin Supreme Court this morning upheld the nation’s first school choice program against legal challenge.

“A bright new day just dawned for youngsters from low-income families,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute for Justice’s litigation director, which represented Milwaukee families defending the program. “The constitutional cloud over school choice is giving way to sunshine.”

Bolick predicted the teacher unions and other opponents will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We welcome an appeal,” Bolick said. “Giving parents a choice does not violate the Constitution.”

Institute for Justice President Chip Mellor said, “Today’s decision will help school choice spread like wildfire across the nation. The Court’s careful analysis of the Constitutional issues provides powerful insight that voucher programs are fully compatible with the principles of the First Amendment.”

The program allows up to 15,000 low-income children to use their state education funds in private or religious schools. The opponents challenged it as a violation of religious establishment provisions of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

By a 4-2 vote, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected those claims. Four other state supreme courts-Ohio, Vermont, Arizona and Maine-face similar questions. The Institute for Justice is litigating in all of these cases.

A celebration rally is being planned in Milwaukee.

“This ruling begins to make good on the promise of equal educational opportunities for all children,” Bolick declared.