People For the American Way, along with a coalition of allied groups and parents of Arizona students, today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s publicly funded school voucher programs. The lawsuit challenges two laws which appropriate public money to pay for tuition to private and religious schools.
“This voucher scheme thumbs its nose at the separation of church and state,” said People For the American Way Legal Director Elliot Mincberg. “The Arizona Constitution is very clear that taxpayer money shouldn’t fund religious instruction or private schools. We expect the court to abide by this straightforward constitutional principle.”
The voucher laws in question violate the Arizona constitution by allocating public money to private schools, and by funding religious instruction at taxpayer expense. The Constitution also limits the Legislature to providing for a “uniform system” of public education and prohibits public funding of private or otherwise competing schools or school systems.
“The government shouldn’t be in the position of writing checks to private schools or religious institutions. It’s bad for our government, it’s bad for our students, and it’s bad for religious freedom,” Mincberg said.
Noting that Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, a named defendant in the suit, has publicly acknowledged that the state constitution forbids vouchers, Mincberg added, “We are asking the Court to acknowledge the obvious: the Legislature clearly overstepped its authority.”
The Arizona taxpayers named as individual plaintiffs in the suit are Scott Holcomb, a parent and member of the Governing Board of Madison Elementary School District No. 3, Virgel Cain, a parent of a child with disabilities and a former foster parent and Sandy Bahr. The challenge is supported by the ACLU of Arizona, Arizona Association of School Business Officials, Arizona Education Association, Arizona Federation of Teachers, Arizona PTA, Arizona Rural Schools Association, Arizona School Administrators Association, Arizona School Boards Association, and others.