Indiana Supreme Court
Upholds Voucher Program
The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in March 2013 that the state voucher program allowing school choice for parents and students is constitutional. The unanimous court decision stated that it is within the legislature’s power to provide vouchers and that public tax dollars can be used to fund private school tuition, even if the school has a religious affiliation.
The ruling is a major victory for those who support educational choice; it allows lower-income families to send their children to private school if they feel that public schools are wrong for their children.
Gov. Mike Pence, said, “I have long believed that parents should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income. Now that the Indiana Supreme Court has unanimously upheld this important program, we must continue to find ways to expand educational opportunities for all Indiana families.”
The teachers’ union supported those who brought suit against vouchers in a lower court. “It’s not great news for every public school kid across the state of Indiana,” said plaintiff Teresa Meredith, who is vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association union. The union wants children to remain in public school even when the school is failing to meet students’ needs.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed the voucher program “violated the state’s duty to provide a free and ‘uniform’ public school system.” An online petition against the vouchers says that vouchers “do not help all students, but rather undermine the quality of public education available for all children.” Critics say uniformity in education is not as important as quality and that quality is sometimes found lacking in government schools.
In 2011 almost 4,000 Indiana students used vouchers and the number jumped to over 9,000 in 2012. While there were limits on the number of students who could use vouchers in the first two years of the program, there are no limits in place for future years.
It is unlikely that plaintiffs will pursue a federal case because the Supreme Court already ruled that voucher programs are legal in a 2002 decision on an Ohio case. (Indianapolis Star, 03-27-13)