Public schools send some disabled kids to private schools -- but parents can't do the same thing with state money, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled today.
The state's high court struck down two voucher programs that intended to give a combined $5 million in taxpayer funds to private schools chosen by parents. Helping disabled kids seems like a "well-intentioned" plan, but there's little problem called the state constitution, writes Justice Michael Ryan (at right).
Ryan stated that the voucher programs violate Article 9, Section 10 of the Arizona Constitution, which states "..."no tax shall be laid or appropriation of public money made in aid of any church, or private or sectarian school, or any public service corporation."
The pro-voucher Institute for Justice group (which lobbied for the program) assailed the ruling, pointing out in a news release that among those hurt will be autistic students who benefit from schools like the Tempe-based Chrysalis Academy. The ACLU, alternatively, crowed in its own news releasehow its side had won:
Fundamental fairness demands that we improve our public schools for every child instead of targeting just a few.
Isn't it obvious that these voucher programs like this are designed to be the proverbial camel's nose in the tent? What voucher proponents really want is to divert big money away from public schools and toward religious institutions and private schools, and the disabled kid "scholarships," as the Institute for Justice euphemistically calls the programs in its news release, was sort of a weather balloon -- now popped.
UPDATE 4:30 PM -- Text of statement by Governor Jan Brewer:
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Statement by Governor Jan Brewer
Arizona Supreme Court Ruling on School Vouchers for Foster Children and Disabled Children
Phoenix - "As a long-time supporter of school choice, it is heartbreaking for me to think of the challenges that are now faced by foster parents and the parents of disabled children to locate a different educational program than the one they have already selected. Clearly, these parents identified these educational programs as the best environment for their children. I will encourage the Legislature to work closely with me to accommodate the needs of these children in the development of a process that will meet the legal requirements of the Arizona Constitution.
"This decision today will not be the end of school choice in Arizona. We are a nationally recognized leader in school choice, the school tax credits remain, and we will continue to provide every opportunity to empower parents to make the best decisions for their children."