Are school vouchers constitutional?
WI Supreme Court: Jackson v Benson (June 10, 1998)
- WI Supreme Court upheld the Milwaukee Parental School Choice Program as constitutional and determined the program did not violate the requirement for public schools – the program only adds options for parents.
U.S. Supreme Court: Zelman v Simmons-Harris (June 27, 2002)
- U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Cleveland, Ohio program as constitutional and determined it was not in violation of the First Amendment or the Establishment Clause.
- Under the Private Choice Test developed by the court, a voucher program must meet all of the following criteria to be considered constitutional:
- Program must have a valid secular purpose.
- Aid must go to parents and not directly to the schools.
- A broad class of beneficiaries must be covered.
- Program must be neutral with respect to religion (opt out).
- There must be adequate nonreligious options.
U. S. Supreme Court: Espinoza v Montana (January 22, 2020)
- Prohibiting religious schools from publicly-funded education programs violates the First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause of the US Constitution.
- Held: The application of the no-aid provision discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 6–22.
- (a) The Free Exercise Clause “protects religious observers against unequal treatment” and against “laws that impose special disabilities on the basis of religious status.” Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 582 U. S. ___, ___. In Trinity Lutheran, this Court held that disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefit “solely because of their religious character” imposes “a penalty on the free exercise of religion that triggers the most exacting scrutiny.”
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