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.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Analysis and Recommendations

Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld Cleveland’s voucher program under both the state and U.S. Constitutions, and the Ohio Legislature has since enacted several more voucher programs.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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