School Vouchers Can Fund Religous Education

     (CN) – Indiana parents are allowed to use taxpayer-funded vouchers to put their children in private schools, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     Teresa Meredith and 10 other plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the Choice Scholarship Program in a lawsuit against Indiana education officials and Gov. Mitch Daniels, later replaced in office and on the docket by Gov. Mike Pence.
     Choice Scholarship provides grants that let eligible low-income students afford private schools instead of the public schools they would attend otherwise.
     The plaintiffs complained that the program violates the Indiana Constitution “both because it uses taxpayer funds to pay for the teaching of religion to Indiana schoolchildren and because it purports to provide those children’s publicly funded education by paying tuition for them to attend private schools rather than the ‘general and uniform system of Common Schools’ the constitution mandates.”
     An Indianapolis circuit judge awarded the state summary judgment, and the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed last week.
     “The plaintiffs proffer no evidence that maximum participation in the voucher program will necessarily result in the elimination of the Indiana public school system,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the court. “The school voucher program does not replace the public school system, which remains in place and available to all Indiana schoolchildren in accordance with the dictates of the education clause.”
     Choice Scholarship furthermore does not compel taxpayers to support religious institutions, according to the 22-page ruling.
     “The religious liberty protections addressed by Section 4 (of the state constitution) prohibited government compulsion of individuals and was neither intended nor understood to limit government expenditures, which is addressed by Section 6,” Dickson wrote.
     “The principal actors and direct beneficiaries under the voucher program are neither the state nor program-eligible schools, but lower-income Indiana families with school-age children,” Dickson added.

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