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The nation's broadest school voucher program upheld in the Indiana Supreme Court amid controversy

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March 28, 2013

Indiana

By Josh Altic

Is it a problem that large amounts of state money are being used to send children to religious private schools? Some would say this is an abuse of state funds, but the Supreme Court says it is perfectly constitutional since parents, not state officials, are deciding where to spend state vouchers.

Indiana is home to one of the most broad and flexible school voucher systems which gives public financial assistance to low to middle-income parents who wish to send their children to private schools. Controversy over this school voucher system grew into a heated court case in 2011 because a majority of private schools receiving public voucher payment were religious schools. The Indiana State Teachers Association argued that the voucher program is a sneaky way of publicly funding religious activity. Mr. Spradlin, an opponent of the voucher system, said, “there are not many good private school choices outside religiously-affiliated schools in this program. Most parochial schools around the nation are struggling to survive, so parochial school advocates see this [voucher program] as a way to extend their livelihood,”[1]

The Indiana Supreme Court, however, ruled the program constitutional in a unanimous decision on the grounds that the state merely offers the tuition vouchers and the parents, not state officials, choose to use the vouchers to send their children to religious schools. "Whether the Indiana program is wise educational or public policy is not a consideration," wrote Chief Justice Brent Dickson. He continued to argue that the voucher system is undoubtedly constitutional because the vouchers "do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children."[2]

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