Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Arizona vouchers down, but not out

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.  

What is called the Blaine Amendment, Article 9, Section 10 of the Arizona Constitution, reads:

No tax shall be laid or appropriation of public money made in aid of any church, or private or sectarian school, or any public service corporation.

On the basis of that language, last week an Arizona appeals court struck down the voucher programs for children with disabilities and foster care children.

The Arizona Supreme Court explicitly rejected similar arguments in Kotterman v. Killian. The court recognized the Blaine amendment as a product of 19th century anti-Catholic bias, writing that, "We would be hard pressed to divorce the amendment's language from the insidious discriminatory intent that prompted it."

Sadly, the Appeals Court didn't feel pressed at all, voting 3-0 to overturn the program.

Leave it to the opponents of school choice who brought the suit to make use of the prejudices of the past in order to toss severely disadvantaged children out of schools that are meeting their needs.

Moreover, the structure of these programs makes it clear that they are aids to children, not to schools. The language gives a scholarship amount up to a certain maximum, or to the tuition and fees, whichever is less. The churches sponsoring these schools often subsidize them. Therefore, no public money is going to "aid" the church or private school involved.

The Institute for Justice is appealing to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is the Vice President of Research at the Goldwater Institute.

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