A Salute to Clint Bolick

Published January 1, 2000

Citizens for Education Freedom honored Clint Bolick, vice president and litigation director for the Institute for Justice, with the Educational Freedom Award at CEF’s Fortieth Anniversary Gala Banquet in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 16, 1999.

Bolick leads a nationwide litigation effort to defend school choice programs and challenge regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship. In 1991, together with fellow attorney William H. “Chip” Mellor, Bolick formed the Institute to engage in constitutional litigation to protect individual liberty and challenge the reach of the regulatory welfare state.

Today, as it defends eight school choice cases across the country, the Institute is the nation’s leading advocacy group on behalf of parental rights in education.

“Clint Bolick has changed the lives of thousands of children by enabling their parents to transfer them to schools of their own choosing,” said CEF cofounder Martin Duggan in presenting the award.

Bolick graciously gave credit to the work of the late William Bentley Ball, a distinguished constitutional scholar and CEF Advisory Board member who established a solid foundation for advancing the cause of parental choice in K-12 education. Ball served as counsel in 25 constitutional litigations before the U.S. Supreme Court and won many important cases dealing with religious freedom in education, including Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) and Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (1993).

“I am merely a relief pitcher in this game,” Bolick told the audience of more than 300 school choice supporters. “Bill Ball got us to the seventh inning.”

Profound changes had occurred in K-12 education during the past two decades, noted Bolick. When he started to practice law in 1982, homeschoolers were still being sent to jail. This year, the Florida Legislature enacted the first statewide school choice program–what he called “the first money-back guarantee for public education.”

“The world has changed, Martin and Mae,” said Bolick, “and it’s changed because of your courage and your stamina.”

Bolick playfully described a one-block, one-child school choice experiment that had been conducted at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, where the parents had a choice of sending their child to a public or a private school. They chose a private school and after four years, the experiment proved to be successful: “Every student in that program graduated from high school and went on to Stanford,” he said.

On a more serious note, Bolick descried how opponents of school choice were working to prevent poor families in Cleveland and Florida from using vouchers to send their children to private schools.

“This is the Lexington and Concord of the school choice movement,” he said, and vowed: “Those kids in Cleveland and in Florida will never be forced to leave their schools.”