CLU Seeks High Court Review of AZ Plan to Funnel Tax Dollars to Private & Religious Schools

April 26, 1999 12:00 am

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PHOENIX–The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today asked the United States Supreme Court to review and reverse a state high court decision allowing massive transfer of public money into private schools.

In a separate and complementary petition, the Arizona Education Association will also urge the Supreme Court to accept the case for review and reversal.

In the case at issue, Kotterman et al vs. Killian et al, Arizona’s high court upheld the state’s School Tuition Tax Credit statute allowing the use of public funds to support religion and religious education, in violation of the U.S. and state Constitutions.

The tax scheme is a dollar-for-dollar credit against a state tax liability, redirecting tax dollars from the public treasury to private and parochial schools. Allowing the program to go forward could virtually dismantle the Arizona public school system, the ACLU said.

“In the wake of the Kotterman ruling, lawmakers have already introduced bills to provide additional tax credits for home schooling along with other provisions for cash grants and vouchers to allow public support of private school education,” said Eleanor Eisenberg, Executive Director of the Arizona ACLU.

“We do not intend to let are Arizona become the first state to totally dismantle the public school system, which has provided opportunities for all and prepared generations of Americans to participate in our democracy,” she added.

“Because of the potential for undermining the fundamental right to a public education, the Arizona Court decision requires our challenge and, hopefully, review and reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Arizona Supreme Court took fourteen months to issue its narrowly decided and widely criticized opinion. With a strong dissent by Justices Feldman and Moeller, the high court found in January 1999 that the tax credit did not constitute public money and the scheme was not unconstitutional.

The author of the ACLU petition is cooperating attorney and constitutional law expert Paul Bender of Arizona State University School of Law.

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