Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Voucher Editorial Missed the Point

Clint Bolick 

Following an East Valley Tribune report and an article published here by Tim Keller of the Institute for Justice reporting that Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne had decided not to award vouchers next year, Horne responded with a memorandum provocatively entitled "Lies from the Goldwater Institute" denying that he had done so. The Arizona Republic weighed in for Horne, blasting Keller and the Goldwater Institute for assertions that were "insulting" and untrue.

Horne and the Republic simply are wrong. Though the Court of Appeals struck down the voucher programs and instructed the trial court to enjoin them, its order will have no effect because that court has no power to issue any orders while the case is on appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. So, absent Horne's decision to stop it, the program would continue in the coming school year.

This is no mere technical question for the hundreds of families who rely on the scholarships. Many of the children are severely disabled. Others previously were shuttled from school to school. All finally are in good schools that address their special needs and provide high-quality educational opportunities in stable and caring environments. No reason exists to disrupt these children's lives, but Horne's decision throws them into chaos.

So far, the lower courts have reached a split decision, with the trial court upholding the programs and the appeals court striking them down. There is every reason to hope that the Arizona Supreme Court, as it did in upholding scholarship tax credits in 1999, will conclude that the programs are "in aid of" children, not schools, which is the question presented under the Arizona Constitution.

Meanwhile, the idea of school choice continues to flourish, with the Louisiana legislature last week adopting a voucher program championed by Governor Bobby Jindal for New Orleans schoolchildren in failing public schools. Let's hope that common sense prevails in Arizona as well.

Clint Bolick is the director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

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