On Tuesday the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of Indiana’s school voucher law. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the law improperly benefited private religious schools, violating the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment. Blaine Amendments, found in state constitutions around the country, prohibit state treasury money from being used explicitly for the benefit of religious institutions.
The unanimous decision in Meredith v. Daniels stated: “The voucher program expenditures do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children by providing an opportunity for such children to attend non-public schools if desired.” Indiana Judge Michael Keele noted that scholarship recipients can “choose to use the funding for education at a public, secular private, or religious private school.” The choice is up to families. This interpretation is supported by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Cleveland, Ohio’s voucher program in 2002.
The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program is the largest voucher program in the country: More than half of Indiana’s population qualifies to participate. Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have some type of private school choice measure, but Oregon still does not. Isn’t it time that Oregon parents had more power to choose where and how to educate their children?
Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland program at Cascade Policy Institute.