State Capitol News
2:35 am
Wed March 25, 2009

Private school vouchers deemed illegal

Phoenix, AZ – The state Supreme Court today struck down a 3-year-old law which
gives tax dollars for students to attend private and parochial
schools.

The law gives parents of children with special needs what
essentially are checks drawn on the state treasury to pay tuition
and fees at these schools. The Arizona Education Association and
other public school groups sued, noting the state constitution
specifically prohibits tax dollars from being used to aid private
or parochial schools. Defenders of the vouchers like Tim Keller
of the Institute for Justice argued the funds aid the children,
not the schools. Justice Michael Ryan who wrote the unanimous
ruling called the program -- quote -- a well-intentioned effort
to assist students. But he said the constitutional provision is
clear. Keller said the justices got it wrong.

"This decision is out of line with decades of this court's
jurisprudence saying that when a program is neutral and based on
private choice, it doesn't violate the Aid Clause."

The justices said there is a remedy for those who want vouchers:
convince voters to repeal the constitutional ban. Supporters
include Ron Johnson who lobbies for the state's Catholic Bishops
-- and the schools the church runs.

"I'm sure all of the options will be studied in terms of what's
available in terms of school choice, including vouchers or tax
credits. It's premature at this moment to talk about 2010 ballot.
I'm sure we'll take a look at all options."