On November 3rd, when conservatives across the nation hope to celebrate a massive victory in the midterm elections, parents in Phoenix will instead cast their eyes to the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments that will determine whether Arizona can create a school-choice program where parents can decide on where to educate their children. In Winn v Garriott, the ACLU sued over the Individual Scholarship Tax Credit, which remits funds back to parents who then use them for tuition at the school of their choice. However, too many parents chose schools associated with churches for the ACLU’s taste, and the 9th Circuit reversed a ruling in the federal district court that found the ISTC program constitutional. That decision threatens to end a very successful program and send children back into failing schools, unless the Supreme Court overturns the 9th’s decision, as Institute for Justice reports:
This lawsuit is a collateral attack on Arizona’s Individual Scholarship Tax Credit, which was previously held constitutional under the First Amendment and various state constitutional provisions by the Arizona Supreme Court in Kotterman v. Killian. In this federal lawsuit, the Arizona ACLU affiliate again attacks the program under the First Amendment. IJ hasintervened, as it did in the Kotterman case, on behalf of the program’s beneficiaries. The federal district court had originally dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, but a panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the case. The Ninth Circuit panel held that the tax credit unconstitutionally advances religion because most taxpayers donate to religious school tuition organizations. IJ is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the decision. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, upholding Cleveland’s voucher program under the First Amendment, coupled with the Kotterman decision, school choice advocates are in a strong position to defend Arizona’s individual tax credit program.
Let’s hope so. After all, parents should be able to choose the education that best suits their children. The 1st Amendment prohibits the establishment of religion, not prohibiting the use of tax credits to fund a child’s education, especially since there is nothing compulsory about either requesting the tax credit or using it at a religious school of any faith or denomination.