Beating back an attempt to sabotage the program by limiting it to grades K-5, Ohio lawmakers on June 24 approved an education budget that continues to fully fund the Cleveland Scholarship Program for the next two years.
Lawmakers authorized scholarships through sixth grade this year and through seventh grade next year for some 3,700 low-income students currently participating in the program. In addition, scholarships are available for students entering kindergarten for the next two years.
“This victory empowers low-income parents in Cleveland to direct as much as $2,500 a year in education voucher funds to the school of their choice,” said CEO America President Fritz Steiger.
In May, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the scholarship program was invalid because its original approval, as part of an unrelated bill, violated the Ohio Constitution’s prohibition against bills addressing more than one subject. Lawmakers’ June reauthorization of the program came as part of the state’s education bill.
The court had also ruled that the program did not violate either the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution or a similar clause in the Ohio Constitution. (See “Vouchers Ruled Constitutional in Ohio”, School Reform News, July 1999.)
“Whatever link between government and religion is created by the school voucher program is indirect,” the court ruled, “depending only on the genuinely independent and private choices of individual parents.”
For more information …
The Ohio Supreme Court decision in Simmons-Harris v. Goff (1999) is available on the Internet at ftp://ftp.sconet.state.oh.us/opinions/1999/971117.doc. It is also available in two ten-page parts through PolicyBot. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot icon, and search for old documents #2184818 and #2184819.