By US Daily Review Staff.
An Indiana judge on Friday upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, strengthening the expansive, first-year voucher program and the futures of the thousands of low-income children it serves.
The American Federation for Children— an organization that describes itself as “the nation’s voice for school choice” —praised the ruling as a victory for Hoosier families, and applauded the work of the Institute for Justice, which argued successfully on behalf of upholding the program.
The decision is a victory children currently participating in the program and for those who wish to participate next year. Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele, who initially blocked the lawsuit last August before making Friday’s final ruling, said that the state’s constitution clearly allows for educational options outside of the public school system.
“This ruling is a victory for children and families not just in Indiana, but all across America,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “It sends a message to special interests everywhere that they cannot stand in the way of giving disadvantaged children the educational opportunities they deserve.”
The Choice Scholarship Program, which became law last May and began with the current school year, enrolls nearly 4,000 students from around the state. It is the largest first year voucher program in history. Eighty-five percent of scholarship recipients qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program, and about 70 percent hail from urban areas, where the largest concentration of low-performing schools in the state are located.
Among the most ardent opponents of the program is the Indiana State Teachers Association, which argued unsuccessfully that the program violates the separation of church and state. Friday’s decision is consistent with recent rulings in other states, where voucher and scholarship tax credit programs have been upheld. The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled vouchers constitutional, as it did for scholarship tax credit programs last year.
Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program was one of the highlights in a year that featured remarkable growth of publicly funded private school choice programs nationwide. In addition to Indiana, new programs were enacted last year in Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. A seventh program in Douglas County, Colorado is currently facing its own special interest lawsuit.