Video: Will parents get school choice in Arizona?

posted at 2:57 pm on October 22, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

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.


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The ACLU: Looking out for your kids. Afterall…don’t all of our children deserve the same, and equal opportunity at indoctrination via our public schools?

capejasmine on October 22, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Wait! This is ARIZONA!

Has anyone asked for the opinion of MEGHAN THUNDERTHIGHS on this one?!!!

pilamaye on October 22, 2010 at 3:04 PM

That decision threatens to end a very successful program and send children back into failing schools

Oh well. The goal of liberals isn’t to educate and produce responsible citizens. It’s to indoctrinate and create dependence on government by ensuring these children never succeed.

darwin on October 22, 2010 at 3:06 PM

and of course this begs the question whose money is it. the parents who work and pay taxes.

Ricki on October 22, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Why does the ACLU hate children?
/

milwife88 on October 22, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Choice is good. I have no problem where kids go to receive a good education that will give the skills needed for life.

I worry about Madrasah’s popping up.

Kini on October 22, 2010 at 3:08 PM

I really feel sorry for the citizens of AZ. First the feds haul gov. Brewer to court for doing the job the feds won’t do and now this. I sure hope they get the school choice. Parents, kids, and the taxpayers should decide where their funds go to help the kids learn! It sure shouldn’t be the teachers unions.
L

letget on October 22, 2010 at 3:10 PM

What part of “or the free exercise thereof” doesn’t the ACLU understand? The moment the State says “you can spend your voucher anywhere else but at a religious school”, they’ve just denied the free exercise of religion. If the State said “you must spend your voucher at a religious school”, they would be requiring their citizens to participate in religion.

Arizona is saying neither. That said, I would expect that any State monies expended on education produce measurable results. The kids must be tested, the teachers certified in the core subjects they will teach…

unclesmrgol on October 22, 2010 at 3:10 PM

This is why the Dept of Ed needs to be abolished and all education responsibilities returned to states or localities. It’s the peoples money, they should determine where their children go.

darwin on October 22, 2010 at 3:12 PM

The Ninth Circuit panel held that the tax credit unconstitutionally advances religion because most taxpayers donate to religious school tuition organizations.

??? So if only a few had chosen to use the funds at religious schools, the program would be ok? It’s just a certain (unspecified?)number that tips the scale into unconstitutionality?

Wethal on October 22, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Does the government just consider all of the money as theirs? Getting back some of the money I paid in taxes, to send my child to a religious school has nothing to do with the first amendment. It isn’t as if the government is funding the religious school. My money is mine not the governments. They make me pay them a certain portion in taxes, but it is still my money.

They pull same thing when they talk about tax cuts, that it is going to COST the government X amount. By not collecting as much from me as you used too doesn’t cost you anything.

They really do think all of the money belongs to the government.

free on October 22, 2010 at 3:14 PM

The Ninth Circuit panel held that the tax credit unconstitutionally advances religion because most taxpayers donate to religious school tuition organizations.

My, my how the 1st Amendment has been distorted.

darwin on October 22, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Does the government just consider all of the money as theirs?

free on October 22, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Theirs to spread around as they please

Kini on October 22, 2010 at 3:17 PM

The goal of the school system ceased to be about the 3 R’s a long long time ago. It is now about keeping kids busy for 6 hours and indoctrinating them.
That doesn’t work if parents have input let alone can choose a school.
I agree after the defunding of NPR, they ought to go after the Department of Education.
I know, I’m dreaming.

ORconservative on October 22, 2010 at 3:17 PM

“The parents are acting stupidly.”

s/ TOTUS… Liberals… NPR… all the same…

Khun Joe on October 22, 2010 at 3:20 PM

They are afraid only illegals will be left at the public schools…

tinkerthinker on October 22, 2010 at 3:27 PM

The goal of the school system ceased to be about the 3 R’s a long long time ago. It is now about keeping kids busy for 6 hours and indoctrinating them.
That doesn’t work if parents have input let alone can choose a school.
I agree after the defunding of NPR, they ought to go after the Department of Education.
I know, I’m dreaming.

ORconservative on October 22, 2010 at 3:17 PM

We can take out the Department of Education as long as we make it clear up front that it’s not about funding, and that the same amounts will flow from the federal government to states for education, subject to the same legislative discussion it is every year. If we put it that way, states will see it as empowering and taking back control of education and they will be supportive.

slickwillie2001 on October 22, 2010 at 3:34 PM

They are afraid only illegals will be left at the public schools…

tinkerthinker on October 22, 2010 at 3:27 PM

That’s already the case in some of the public schools here.

AZCoyote on October 22, 2010 at 3:34 PM

The goal of the school system ceased to be about the 3 R’s a long long time ago. It is now about keeping kids busy for 6 hours and indoctrinating them.
That doesn’t work if parents have input let alone can choose a school.
I agree after the defunding of NPR, they ought to go after the Department of Education.
I know, I’m dreaming.

ORconservative on October 22, 2010 at 3:17 PM

A guy who used to be on talk radio here in Dallas (David Gold) used to say that the three Rs now stood for:

Reproduction, Recycling, and Racism

Ward Cleaver on October 22, 2010 at 3:35 PM

I don’t know about AZ, but in TX it’s a given that the best science education is in Catholic schools. Why does the ACLU hate science?

VerbumSap on October 22, 2010 at 3:36 PM

“You must send your child to school.”

“Ok, I’ll send him to that one over there. It’ll cost me about $3,500.”

“Wait, first give the money to me.”

“Ok…. here.”

“Thanks. Now here is $3,029.94 of it back. Oh, and you can’t use it to send your child to that school over there because it has a cross on it. I don’t like crosses.”

“But I want to send my child there.”

“You can’t use that money for that school. If you want to use that school we’ll take this money back, and find other money someplace for the school with the cross on it.”

“What?!”

“Actually, we have these schools over here you can use that money for. They have nothing to do with crosses and all, and most kids drop out before they’re seventeen. A lot of them get into dope and get pregnant. But hey, it’s free.”

“Well, ok… gimme my money back and I’ll send my kid to Molech Middle School over there.”

Akzed on October 22, 2010 at 3:38 PM

Does any sane person honestly thing the founders intended a nation where we would make illegal parents using what is ultimately THEIR money to send THEIR kids to schools with religious affiliations? They would be shocked that this would EVER be an issue.

That’s one reason I have no problem when some make the argument that liberals are most often against what the founders wanted for this nation. “Progressives”= progressing beyond those idiot 18th century hicks who started this whole thing.

TheBlueSite on October 22, 2010 at 3:42 PM

The ACLU HATES minority children. Racists!

GarandFan on October 22, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Arizona should change its constitution to give parents the right to recieve a voucher for the funds given to a school district by the state. A simple formula of:

All monies appropriated for school district A/
the total number of students in school district A
=
The amount of the voucher that the parent can recieve.

The parent can give the voucher back to her public school or send their child to a school of their choosing public or private.

While this is not a cure all it would instantly make public schools accountable for results and make teachers unions powerless.

Theworldisnotenough on October 22, 2010 at 3:59 PM

Has anyone asked for the opinion of MEGHAN THUNDERTHIGHS on this one?!!!

pilamaye on October 22, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Yes indeed! Speaking as a 26 year old woman, she must be allowed to WEIGH in on this topic!

csdeven on October 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM

We choose homeschooling.

parents are to bring up their children in the way that they should go.

Uncle Sammy can’t do that.

ted c on October 22, 2010 at 4:23 PM

I am a dedicated agnostic, and am not certain I approve of religious training for children. I think children should learn of all points of view, and then choose a religion – or none – when they are adults.
However, I believe – with the above reservation – that parents have the right to send their children to any school they wish – including religious schools.

I attended Catholic school when I was in the 7th grade, and found that their teaching of the ‘three Rs’ was excellent. They did not succeed in converting me, however, for which I am grateful :)

greenLibertarian on October 22, 2010 at 5:01 PM

My public school district in MI has “school of choice” Nobody likes it because of the trouble makers it has brought into our district. Well, I shouldn’t say nobody- the district likes it for the money each child brings to the district.
Ours sounds different than AZ.

Bullhead on October 22, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Why not just admit that “school choice” is just another way for us to starve the beast?

Private schools should not be corrupted with public money and public schools should not lose funding based solely proficiency levels of their students. Just because there is a significant portion of children who seem to be being passed along, that doesn’t mean that the children who are motivated to learn (likely the ones with parents who are invested enough in their education to actually care to send them to private school) aren’t being served. And if the only reason people want the money is because they want religious instruction for their children, then again they shouldn’t be taking money from the public school to do so.

If you want to dismantle the public school system, then by all means make that argument, but if you want to create another government handout for unhappy parents who want to send their kids to private schools, I’ll pass. A non-refundable tax credit, maybe, but a voucher program is just another wealth redistribution program that disproportionately weakens the public school.

Dan Minardi on October 22, 2010 at 5:39 PM

When I see videos of kids winning a chance to go to a better school it about kills me. It is ridiculous.

CWforFreedom on October 22, 2010 at 5:45 PM

I attended Catholic school when I was in the 7th grade, and found that their teaching of the ‘three Rs’ was excellent. They did not succeed in converting me, however, for which I am grateful :)

greenLibertarian on October 22, 2010 at 5:01 PM

For now

CWforFreedom on October 22, 2010 at 5:45 PM

I read the opinion and it basically said “The Defendants are right on the law, but gosh darn it, the ACLU says it ain’t fair. Yes taxpayers have a choice to give to any STO they desire, but that’s not a free choice because the outcome isn’t what we would like it to be.”

So remember, the only truly free choices you make are the ones that result in what a liberal percieves to be equal outcomes.

Onus on October 22, 2010 at 7:04 PM

This is the first I’ve heard about this, and I am a parent who UTILIZED the ACSTO program when my son was attending a Lutheran school. My understanding was that the ACLU lawsuit against the program had failed, and I wasn’t aware there was any further challenge to it.

Eff the ACLU!

JannyMae on October 22, 2010 at 7:27 PM

I am a dedicated agnostic, and am not certain I approve of religious training for children. I think children should learn of all points of view, and then choose a religion – or none – when they are adults.
greenLibertarian on October 22, 2010 at 5:01 PM

You are free to do as you choose, with your own children, but my bible says you’re dead wrong.

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

JannyMae on October 22, 2010 at 7:31 PM

This is exactly what O’Donnel was talking about when the libs started laughing at her. There is no “Seperation of Church and State” that could sanely be interpreted as not allowing parents to spend money for the education of their children because their personal preference is a religious school.

Dan Minardi on October 22, 2010 at 5:39 PM, it’s pathetic that you would call this program a hand out. It’s money that will go towards a childs education whether the parents spend it or the government spends it. As usual, if the citizen spends it, it will provide a much higher quality product for a lower price. And also as usual, the unthinking automatically want to limit everyone to living with the government making all the choices.

brainy435 on October 22, 2010 at 7:49 PM

The First Amendment also prevents government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. If the objection to this is people are using it to exercise their religion, then government is prohibited from stopping the program on that basis, as per the First.

JSchuler on October 22, 2010 at 8:20 PM

, and that the same amounts will flow from the federal government to states for education, subject to the same legislative discussion it is every year…

slickwillie2001 on October 22, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Why not just leave it the local / State level in the first place? Why does it need to be laundered through D.C. at all?

ss396 on October 22, 2010 at 9:48 PM

And if the only reason people want the money is because they want religious instruction for their children, then again they shouldn’t be taking money from the public school to do so.

Dan Minardi on October 22, 2010 at 5:39 PM

They go to the religious schools because those schools take more of a no-nonsense approach to education, including in the 3-Rs. Religious instruction comes free of charge on Sundays, in any case.

ss396 on October 22, 2010 at 9:53 PM

The Ninth Circuit panel held that the tax credit unconstitutionally advances religion because most taxpayers donate to religious school tuition organizations.

Somebody ‘splain to me how this does not translate as “if the government does not take some of your money, the part they didn’t take may not be spent on religion”?

Effin 9th Circus.

Merovign on October 22, 2010 at 9:54 PM

Guarantee you, they will NOT not take your money, they’ll spend it somewhere else. That whole department needs to go. And the tax burden should be reduced to the penny. Spend your own money.
The state would do a much better job, or maybe just local school districts, if you do away with the unions, administrators, and deadwood.
Just my .02

(Maybe a web based school… something the parents can choose the curriculum? hmmm!)

docjohn52 on October 22, 2010 at 10:02 PM

If you want to dismantle the public school system, then by all means make that argument, but if you want to create another government handout for unhappy parents who want to send their kids to private schools, I’ll pass. A non-refundable tax credit, maybe, but a voucher program is just another wealth redistribution program that disproportionately weakens the public school.

Dan Minardi on October 22, 2010 at 5:39 PM

It sounds like you are fully in support of the Arizona program. The Arizona program is not a voucher program, it is a tuition tax credit program. Parents cannot utilized the credit for their own child’s tuition. The way the program works:
1) Any AZ taxpayer can donate up to $1000 per married filing jointly ($500 single filer) to a qualified tuition tax credit organization. The taxpayer can designate the school to which the donation is to go and can recommend a specific child (it cannot be their own child). By law, coordinated swapping is illegal, you can’t say to Joe, “I’ll donate to your kid if you’ll donate to mine”. You can however work with people you know to get them to recommend your child. To your point, this is a non-refundable tax credit.
2) The tuition tax credit organization takes the donations, is allowed to retain a certain amount for operating expenses (I think it’s up to 10%, but it may be less).
3) Parents apply for tuition tax credit scholarships from the tuition tax credit organization.
4) The tax credit organization reviews the applications, reviews the recommendations and makes awards to parents based upon both need and recommendations.
5) The scholarships are paid directly to the private school for the child who has received the scholarship.

The schools work out with parents how the scholarships reduce the tuition (i.e, based upon estimate at the beginning of the year, applied as the scholarships are received and future payments reduced, etc.)

There are both religious and non-religious organizations to which one can donate.

AZfederalist on October 22, 2010 at 10:24 PM

If it’s an honest-to-God charity program, then the ACLU shouldn’t have any argument, and I’m all for allowing charities. The only issue then is the tax-deductability of donations to religious schools. I don’t support Supreme Court 1st Amendment precedent, so I think the ACLU should go pound sand on this one.

But the oft-supported voucher programs are another matter. If you spend so many thousands of dollars per child, we don’t simply say that those thousands of dollars aren’t needed if a child leaves. The school still needs the same number of books, the same number of teachers, and the same number of computers. The voucher isn’t the parents’ money to spend on the education of their children, it is the money that wealthy parents are paying to support the entire public school system. It’s pretentious to say that we support “school choice.” Everyone has a choice. The rich just have more choices. That’s the way the world works.

Dan Minardi on October 22, 2010 at 11:13 PM

Choice is good. I have no problem where kids go to receive a good education that will give the skills needed for life.

I worry about Madrasah’s popping up.

Kini on October 22, 2010 at 3:08 PM

As do I.

Like Public Schools, they too are centers of indoctrination.

Chaz706 on October 23, 2010 at 4:30 PM