Ohio

Ohio

Voucher, tax credit, and education savings account programs are all options in Ohio. In Zelman, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Cleveland’s voucher program under the federal Establishment Clause. And before that, the Cleveland program survived constitutional review by the Ohio Supreme Court. Since those decisions, Ohio has enacted several more educational choice programs. Espinoza reinforces the fact that generally available scholarship programs may not discriminate based on religion.

Constitutional Provisions
Compelled Support Clause
“No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent .…” Ohio Const. Art. I, § 7.

Education Articles
“The principal of all funds, arising from the sale, or other disposition of lands, or other property, granted or entrusted to this State for educational and religious purposes, shall be used or disposed of in such manner as the General Assembly shall prescribe by law.” Ohio Const. Art. VI, § 1.

“The general assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state; but no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this state.” Ohio Const. Art. VI, § 2.

Relevant Case Law
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that Cleveland’s Scholarship and Tutoring Program does not violate the Establishment Clause because the program is neutral with respect to religion, provides benefits directly to a wide spectrum of individuals, and allows those individuals to freely choose between religious and non-religious schools.

Simmons-Harris v. Goff, 711 N.E.2d 203 (Ohio 1999)
The Supreme Court of Ohio held the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program does not violate either the federal Establishment Clause or the state constitution’s Compelled Support or education clauses, but struck down the program after concluding it violated the single-subject rule contained in the state constitution because it was passed as part of the state budget. The Legislature quickly re-authorized the program as standalone legislation.

Kosydar v. Wolman, 353 F. Supp. 744 (S.D. Ohio 1972), aff’d sub nom., Grit v. Wolman, 413 U.S. 901 (1973)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that state statutes that provided tax credits to parents of pupils in predominantly religious schools, who incurred educational expenses in excess of those borne by parents generally in securing approved primary and secondary schooling for their children, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Protestants & Other Americans United for Separation of Church & State v. Essex, 275 N.E.2d 603 (Ohio 1971)
The Ohio Supreme Court held that allotting federal money and equipment to private schools to compensate them for testing or educating deaf and disabled students does not violate the Ohio Constitution because the aid to the school is incidental at best.

Honohan v. Holt, 244 N.E.2d 537 (Ohio Ct. Com. Pl. Franklin County 1968)
An Ohio Court of Common Pleas held that the indirect benefits flowing to religious schools from the transportation of their pupils at public expense do not constitute the support prohibited by the Compelled Support Clause of the Ohio Constitution.

Moore v. Board of Education, 212 N.E.2d 833 (Ohio Ct. Com. Pl. Mercer County 1965)
An Ohio Court of Common Pleas held that religious segregation of students in public schools is not per se invalid, nor is the wearing of religious garb by teachers impermissible. The court did hold, however, that the particular “release time” program, which allowed students to leave class for religious instruction in adjacent classrooms or buildings, amounted to the use of public funds for operation of parochial schools and was therefore unconstitutional.

Findley v. Conneaut, 62 N.E.2d 318 (Ohio 1945)
The Ohio Supreme Court held that a will providing for the establishment of a private polytechnic industrial school in which the teaching of Protestant religion is to be a prominent feature authorizes the creation of a religious school, for which municipalities are not allowed to issue bonds or expend funds raised by taxation.

Board of Education v. Minor, 23 Ohio St. 211 (Ohio 1872)
In refusing to enforce resolutions passed by the state board of education that would prohibit the reading of all religious materials in public schools, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the state constitution neither prohibits nor requires religious instruction, or the reading of religious books, in the public schools of the state.

Existing Private School Choice Programs
Cleveland Scholarship & Tutoring Program
Ohio Revised Code Annotated Sections 3313.974 to .975

Autism Scholarship Program
Ohio Revised Code Annotated Section 3310.41

Ohio Educational Choice Scholarships
Ohio Revised Code Annotated Section 3310.02

Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program
Ohio Revised Code Annotated Sections 3310.51 to .64

Income-Based Scholarship Program
Ohio Revised Code Annotated Section 3310.032

What You've Heard About Blaine Amendments

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their original purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools while preserving funding for America’s nascent “common” schools, which were predominantly Protestant and often inhospitable to Catholics. For decades, opponents of educational choice have employed Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons to impede and invalidate educational choice programs. However, thanks to a decades-long legal strategy tenaciously pursued by IJ, these state constitutional obstacles to educational freedom are now largely a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the federal Constitution allows states to empower parents to choose religious and nonreligious schools alike when participating in educational choice programs so long as the state remains religiously neutral and parents exercise true private choice. But Zelman left open the question of whether the constitution would permit a state to exclude religious options from an educational choice program. On June 30, 2020, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court answered that open question and held that the federal Constitution forbids states from excluding religious schools as options for families participating in educational choice programs, including through Blaine Amendments.

The federal Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the Espinoza majority, “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are members of the community too, and their exclusion from [Montana’s] scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.” The Supreme Court’s holding was clear and unambiguous—and it applies to every state: While a “State need not subsidize private education[,] . . . once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

As a result of Espinoza, nearly every state is free to enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their own children. Of course, each state has a unique history, context, and constitutional provisions. That is why IJ has produced this 50-state guide. The guide analyzes each state’s constitution in light of Espinoza and explains how the ruling impacts policymakers’ ability to enact educational choice programs.

What You Need to Know After Espinoza

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their original purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools while preserving funding for America’s nascent “common” schools, which were predominantly Protestant and often inhospitable to Catholics. For decades, opponents of educational choice have employed Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons to impede and invalidate educational choice programs. However, thanks to a decades-long legal strategy tenaciously pursued by IJ, these state constitutional obstacles to educational freedom are now largely a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the federal Constitution allows states to empower parents to choose religious and nonreligious schools alike when participating in educational choice programs so long as the state remains religiously neutral and parents exercise true private choice. But Zelman left open the question of whether the constitution would permit a state to exclude religious options from an educational choice program. On June 30, 2020, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court answered that open question and held that the federal Constitution forbids states from excluding religious schools as options for families participating in educational choice programs, including through Blaine Amendments.

The federal Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the Espinoza majority, “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are members of the community too, and their exclusion from [Montana’s] scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.” The Supreme Court’s holding was clear and unambiguous—and it applies to every state: While a “State need not subsidize private education[,] . . . once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

As a result of Espinoza, nearly every state is free to enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their own children. Of course, each state has a unique history, context, and constitutional provisions. That is why IJ has produced this 50-state guide. The guide analyzes each state’s constitution in light of Espinoza and explains how the ruling impacts policymakers’ ability to enact educational choice programs.

Select Your State

Program Status
All Educational Choice Programs
Only Tax Credit and ESA Programs
Educational Choice Programs Unavailable

For More Information

Read Our Model Education Legislation


Contact IJ's Educational Choice Team

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