Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Education vouchers again

Don’t worry, I’ll start obsessing about the Supreme Court nomination soon enough, but for the moment I have vouchers on my mind.

Here’s a press release from the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation celebrating the expansion of Ohio’s voucher program, upheld by the Supreme Court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. (In case you’re wondering--O.K., I couldn’t resist--Sandra Day O’Connor voted with the majority and wrote a separate concurrence insisting upon the genuineness of the choice Cleveland parents had.)

Katie Newmark calls our attention to this line of argument, which suggests that well-intentioned state constitutional provisions regarding support for public schools--which I’ve already discussed here and here--may well serve the purposes of school choice opponents. As Andrew Coulson puts it,

Floridians, and citizens of every other state with such explicit constitutional mandates, have backed themselves into a corner. Even if compelling new evidence convinces the majority of voters that there is a better way to educate children, the state could be stuck with the status quo. It would likely take a supermajority and a constitutional amendment to put alternatives to traditional government schooling on a sound judicial footing.

While voucher systems may constitutionally supplement public school systems, it would likely take constitutional amendments to legitimate voucher programs that "replaced traditional public schools or competed with them on a level playing field." And even the "supplemental" programs, like Florida’s (and
Ohio’s?) may be vulnerable to state constitutional challenge.

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