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Supreme Court Upholds Voucher Program that Funds Religious Schools

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling yesterday that legitimizes school voucher programs and allows the state to fund religious education. The majority opinion asserts that a Cleveland, Ohio voucher program gives parents “a true private choice” in educating their children, an argument that differs fundamentally from preceding decisions on the issue. A 2000 federal appeals court ruled that the Cleveland program violates constitutional mandates for the separation of church and state. “This is a direct assault on the fundamental tenets of our Constitution and our educational system,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “By endorsing the religious educational model, will this Supreme Court decision in effect lead to a confrontation with Title IX and equality for girls and women in education?” In Cleveland, vouchers capped at a total of $2,250 per child grant parents an “illusion of choice,” according to the New York Times. With that limited amount, parents are able to afford religious schools as their private option – 96 percent of the 3,700 students in Cleveland that used vouchers during the 1999-2000 school year attended parochial schools. A New York Times editorial characterized the decision as an assault on the First Amendment while taking much-needed funds away from our troubled public school system. “It is hard to think of a starker assault on the doctrine of separation of church and state than taking taxpayer dollars and using them to inculcate specific religious beliefs in young people.” State courts will now become the next battlefield for school vouchers, with supporters vowing to move immediately to pass programs in sympathetic states.

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling yesterday that legitimizes school voucher programs and allows the state to fund religious education. The majority opinion asserts that a Cleveland, Ohio voucher program gives parents “a true private choice” in educating their children, an argument that differs fundamentally from preceding decisions on the issue. A 2000 federal appeals court ruled that the Cleveland program violates constitutional mandates for the separation of church and state.

“This is a direct assault on the fundamental tenets of our Constitution and our educational system,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “By endorsing the religious educational model, will this Supreme Court decision in effect lead to a confrontation with Title IX and equality for girls and women in education?”

In Cleveland, vouchers capped at a total of $2,250 per child grant parents an “illusion of choice,” according to the New York Times. With that limited amount, parents are able to afford religious schools as their private option – 96 percent of the 3,700 students in Cleveland that used vouchers during the 1999-2000 school year attended parochial schools.

A New York Times editorial characterized the decision as an assault on the First Amendment while taking much-needed funds away from our troubled public school system. “It is hard to think of a starker assault on the doctrine of separation of church and state than taking taxpayer dollars and using them to inculcate specific religious beliefs in young people.” State courts will now become the next battlefield for school vouchers, with supporters vowing to move immediately to pass programs in sympathetic states.

Sources:

New York Times 6/28/02; Washington Post 6/28/02