Court Rejects Cleveland School Voucher Program
CINCINNATI, OHIO – A federal appeals court today ruled that a four-year old Cleveland school voucher program violated the Constitution’s separation of church and state.
According to the Associated Press, both sides predict that the issue will go to the U.S. Supreme Court in what may be a test case over whether tax money can be used to send students to private and religious schools.
In Monday’s ruling, the appeals court voted 2-1 to uphold a federal judge’s December 1999 decision declaring the voucher program unconstitutional because most of the 56 schools that receive voucher money have a religious affiliation.
U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver had ruled in 1999 that the program `has the effect of advancing religion through government-supported religious indoctrination.”
“The appeals court today affirmed the principle that the collection of taxes by the government to support religious education is neither good for the government, nor religion,” said Christine Link, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, part of a coalition that challenged the program.
Those advocating the voucher program argued in court that the program gives low-income parents an alternative to the Cleveland public schools.
The Cleveland program allows low-income parents to receive up to $2,250 per child in state-funded tuition payments to private schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1998 let stand a Milwaukee voucher program by refusing to review the case. In 1999, it allowed Maine to subsidize children who attend some private schools while denying such tuition vouchers for those who go to religious schools.
More recently, however, voters in California and Michigan overwhelmingly rejected ballot initiatives to funnel taxpayer money into voucher programs.
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