Federal Court Overturns Ohio Vouchers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 1999

Contact: Nathan Richter or Tracy Duckett at PFAW Foundation

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Court Strikes Down Public Funds for Religious Schools

A federal court in Cleveland today overturned Ohio’s private and religious school voucher program, holding that the program violates the First Amendment to the Constitution. People For the American Way Foundation along with other public education and constitutional rights organizations brought the lawsuit against the voucher program, which provides state financial support to religious schools.

“This is a victory for Ohio’s public school children and our Constitution,” said People For the American Way president Carole Shields. “Taxpayer dollars should be put to work in the public schools where they belong and not be used to subsidize someone’s religion.”

Today’s ruling is consistent with other federal court decisions against the use of public funds to pay for tuition in religious schools, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s still-applicable 1973 ruling in Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty v. Nyquist. The Ohio voucher program parallels the New York state private school tuition reimbursement program stuck down in Nyquist, and the Ohio case may be the best opportunity for the Supreme Court to revisit the issue of vouchers.

“Every ruling from a federal court on vouchers has been against the use of public funds to support religious schools,” said Shields. “This case will likely present the Supreme Court’s next chance to clear up the confusion caused by differing federal and state court rulings on vouchers.”

Citing recent investigations into voucher programs in Cleveland and Milwaukee that have revealed a lack of safeguards for students and violations of state voucher laws that are meant to protect students’ and parents’ rights, Shields said “The country would be wise to learn from the mistakes of voucher experiments in Cleveland and Milwaukee and support proven education reforms, such as smaller classes, and not this voucher gimmick that’s leaving children, parents and taxpayers high and dry.”

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More information on vouchers: www.pfaw.org/issues/education/.

Full text of the ruling today at the court’s web site: www.ohnb.uscourts.gov.