Search results for: "vouchers unconstitutional"

Readers of this blog got the scoop a few days ago in the comment section, as reported by Christine Langhoff. But she did not have the English translation.

Here it is in Politico:

NO GO FOR PRIVATELY RUN CHARTERS, VOUCHERS IN PUERTO RICO: Key elements of the Puerto Rican government’s push to reform education through school choice suffered a blow in court over the weekend — one that leaders say they plan to appeal.

— Tribunal de Primera Instancia Judge Iris Cancio González ruled that privately run charter schools and publicly funded vouchers used in private schools run afoul of the Puerto Rican constitution, which says public funds should only sustain government-run schools. Cancio González wrote that even when regulated, charter schools more closely resemble “a private education system funded by the government, than the public schools we know today.”

— “Their framework creates a financing system that supports private institutions, which the government simply licenses with limited supervision,” Cancio González wrote. She added that the private donations charter schools are allowed to receive could influence their objectives and practice, and agreed with teachers union arguments that charter schools could “dilute” the funding that goes to traditional public schools.

— The ruling makes an exception for charter schools run by local governments and public universities.

— The challenge was brought by Puerto Rico’s largest teachers union in a lawsuit filed in April. The union has for months fought the reform plan pushed by Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, arguing that charter schools and vouchers are a threat to the island’s public schools. “We’ve always said, both charters and vouchers are unconstitutional,” Aida Díaz, president of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, said in a statement . “Justice has been served for our children and their right to a public education. We continue to fight for them and for our teachers.”

— Ramón Rosario Cortés, Puerto Rico’s secretary of public affairs and public policy, said in a statement that “great changes usually attract resistance” and that the government plans to appeal the ruling.

A North Carolina judge ruled voucher legislation unconstitutional because it gives money intended for public schools to private and religious schools. He ordered an immediate halt to the program.

Yvonne Brannan of PublicSchools First NC sent the following response, which included a video of Judge Robert Hobgood reading his decision:

“PLEASE watch this– you will better understand why this is so critical!! Hobgood is brilliant — he clearly points out how children will be denied the promise and privilege of public education if in a private setting where they have no constitutional rights!!!! EVERYONE must get this!! Rs and Ds…please understand the common good of public education for us all must be protected!!!! THIS IS A WIN FOR all children – regardless of race, income, gender, ZIP CODE!!!

“Our forefathers gave us this gift!!! THANKS TO the Great leaders of the past and thanks to fair courts!!

PLEASE CELEBRATE by joining me on Sat at 3:30 pm at the Bicentennial Mall for Moral Week of Action EDUCATION DAY!!


The Louisiana State Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to fund vouchers using money dedicated to public schools. The court split 6-1. The decision removes funding not only for vouchers but for “course choice,” which was supposed to fund courses offered by entrepreneurs–many of them online– outside the public schools.

Great news!

The Montana Supreme Court declared a law unconstitutional that was intended to offer tuition tax credits (aka vouchers) for private schools.

See here and here

“The justices ruled 5-2 that the program giving tax credits of up to $150 for donations to organizations that give scholarships to private-school students amounts to indirect aid to schools controlled by churches. There is a ban in the Montana Constitution on any direct or indirect state aid to such schools, regardless of how large or small the amount is, the opinion by Justice Laurie McKinnon said.

“The Legislature’s enactment of the Tax Credit Program is facially unconstitutional and violates Montana’s constitutional guarantees to all Montanans that their government will not use state funds to aid religious schools,” McKinnon wrote.”

Read more here:

Also, in another Montana newspaper:

“Montana’s high court on Wednesday struck down the state’s tax credit for school scholarships because it primarily benefited religious schools, running afoul of Montana’s Constitution.

“The state program allowed donors who contributed to scholarship funds for students to reduce their state taxes by $1 for every $1 they gave to the fund.

“The Montana Department of Revenue had excluded religious programs from participating in the tax credit program because it allowed religious schools to benefit from public dollars.

“But parents of students at a religious private school in Flathead County had challenged the department’s decision, arguing the ban was discriminatory.

“In Wednesday’s opinion, Justice Laurie McKinnon said the program, enacted by the 2015 Legislature, was a violation of the Montana Constitution’s ban on aid to religious schools.

“The court’s majority said it doesn’t matter that the money benefiting religious schools does not come directly from state coffers because the constitutional article at hand prohibits indirect payments, in this case dollar-for-dollar tax breaks.

“Here, the taxpayer ‘donates’ nothing, because for every dollar the taxpayer diverts to the (school), the taxpayer receives one dollar in consideration from the State in the form of a lower tax bill,” the opinion states.”

Ninety percent of the private schools that signed up for the program were religious.

The radical right and their allies claim they are strict constructionists of the Constitution. They don’t feel the same way about State Constitutions. Even when the State Constitution explicitly says that public money is to be used only for public schools, the far-right celebrates when the Legislature passes a voucher program that violates the State Constitution.

This is the case in Nevada, where the Constitution is very clear about where public money should go: to public schools only. Yet Nevada passed the most sweeping voucher legislation in the nation, and the allegedly strict constructionists have thrown their principles to the wind. The fact is that they care more about free markets than about the State Constitution.

Here is the complaint that was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs challenging Nevada’s sweeping voucher law.

“EducateNevadaNow” is the organization that is leading the charge against vouchers. Here is its question-and-answer sheet about the lawsuit:

On September 9, 2015, a group of parents whose children attend Nevada public schools filed a lawsuit challenging the State’s new voucher law. The lawsuit, Lopez v. Schwartz, has generated media attention and interest from parents, educators and taxpayers.

Today’s frequently asked questions focus on what the parents hope to achieve and next steps in the process.

Q: Are the parents suing for money damages?

A: No. The parents are only suing to stop the voucher program and keep it from taking away funding from the education of their children in the public schools. They are not asking for any money. Additionally, the attorneys representing the parents are providing their legal services for free or “pro bono.”

FACT: The Nevada Constitution states that the funding provided for public schools can only be used to operate those schools and not for any other purposes.

Q: What are the next steps in the parents’ lawsuit?

A: The case has been filed before Judge James Wilson in Carson City, Nevada. The parents will be asking Judge Wilson to declare the voucher law unconstitutional and to block the State Treasurer from implementing the voucher law.

A few days ago, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the voucher plan adopted by the school board in Douglas County was unconstitutional. It was a split decision. It is puzzling that it was a split decision, because the Colorado state constitution explicitly prohibits any public funding of religious institutions.
Text of Section 7:
Aid to Private Schools, Churches, Sectarian Purpose, Forbidden.


Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.


s Hess at the American Enterprise Institute writes in the National Review that the U.S. Supreme Court might well decide to throw out this part of the state constitution because it was written in the late 1870s as a Protestant ban on funding Catholic schools. Such amendments, found in 2/3 of the states’ constitutions, are known as Blaine amendments for James G. Blaine of New York, who led the movement to keep public money out of religious schools.

Representative Rick Glazier explains the court decision today that invalidated the General Assembly’s voucher plan. The State Constitution clearly says that public funds are for public schools.


Representative Glazier writes:


The lawyers who put together this case for the plaintiffs, including Burton Craige and his firm, lawyers for the NC Justice Center, Eddie Speas, and former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, among others, did a great job in preparing, briefing and arguing the case before the Superior Court. They made clear what many of us, including a number of House Democrats, had argued on the House floor last year against this bill and provision–that it patently violates the NC Constitution. Public funds for vouchers is, on its face, inconsistent with our constitutional mandate that public money may only be spent on a uniform system of PUBLIC schools. Not only is this [voucher program] public money to fund private schools, but even at that— a nonuniform system of them since the voucher provisions contain no accountability for the funds or schools, no non-discrimination protections, no teacher licensing requirements, no curriculum mandates, no supervision of the use of the funds, no EC requirements and the list goes on. And, no shell game movement of funds by the legislative majority or Governor makes it any less illegal under NC law. Shy of a constitutional amendment approving vouchers, which would never pass in this state, our state constitution forecloses private vouchers funded by public money and the Judge simply recognized what our legislature refuses to understand–no matter your ideology, and policy beliefs, there are some actions the Constitution forbids and using public money to fund private school choices is one of them. Maybe now we can really get back to our job as state legislators and look to truly assist public schools, public school educators, and the students of this state. Vouchers are not reform; they are an abdication of public education. If we want to assist pubic schools, lets start by professionally compensating teachers and educators, repealing the elimination of masters pay, adding time and resources for top notch and targeted professional development, recognizing the role of poverty in educational disadvantages that need time, attention and resources to overcome, restoring a career status system for teachers that rewards good teaching over time. expanding the richness of curriculum in all public schools, ensuring the involvement of the business community in the commitment to and improvement of public schools, and by our words reminding the public daily of the overriding importance of outstanding public schools and public school educators to our state’s economic success. It has been a good day, for a change, in North Carolina! Rick Glazier

Our reasonable and sensible friend Jan Resseger writes here about the efforts by the Heritage Foundatuon and its allies to saddle Ohio with vouchers. This is especially bizarre because researchers have consistently found that kids in public schools learn more than those in religious schools. Their goal: diminish or eliminate public schools.

She writes:

When you notice a particular educational trend moving across state legislatures, it is useful to investigate who’s behind the policy and who is making it so difficult to mount effective opposition. On Tuesday, this blog covered some of the far-right advocacy groups pressuring Ohio’s supermajority Republican legislature to pass House Bill 290, the Backpack Bill, which would bring a universal Education Savings Account (ESA) school voucher program to the state. Kathryn Joyce’s research for SALON demonstrates that the effort to pass a wave of universal ESA voucher bills is much broader than the particular groups working in Ohio.

Profiling a strategic effort by the Heritage Foundation to drive ESA vouchers through a number of state legislatures, Joyce describes the Heritage Foundation’s new Education Freedom Report Cardwhich rates the states in four categories: “In the category of education choice, Heritage’s primary focus is on education savings accounts (ESAs), a form of school voucher that allows parents to opt out of public schools and use a set amount of state funding (sometimes delivered via debit card) on almost any educational expenses they see fit. ESAs can be used towards charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and low-cost (and typically low-quality) ‘voucher schools,’ as well as online schools, homeschooling expenses, unregulated ‘microschools’ (where a group of parents pool resources to hire a private teacher) or tutoring.”

“In terms of regulatory freedom, Heritage weighs whether states enforce ‘overburdensome’ regulations… The chief concern here appears to be (weakening) teacher certification credentials…. In the third category, transparency, the report rewards states that have ‘strong anti-critical race theory’ laws, high rates of engagement by groups like Parents Defending Education… and laws requiring school districts to provide exhaustive public access to any student curricula or educational materials… Lastly, in terms of spending, the report compares per-pupil (public school) spending not just to learning outcomes but also to matters like the future tax burden created by teacher pensions.”

In states whose legislatures are considering universal Education Savings Account bills like Ohio’s HB 290 Backpack Bill, legislators are receiving lots of help from far-right organizations pumping out “model legislation” that can be adapted to the needs of any state legislature. Joyce points out that the Heritage Foundation’s new report includes “a section containing model legislation written by the Goldwater Institute, the libertarian law firm, Institute for Justice, and (from) the Heritage Foundation itself, covering more ‘anti-CRT’ proposals, more requirements for schools to publicize their training materials for students and staff, and more or bigger ESA voucher programs.” You will remember that Tuesday’s blog post on Ohio quoted the Ohio Capital Journal’s Zurie Pope reporting that Ohio legislators sponsoring the Ohio House Bill 290, have received guidance from the Ohio Center for Christian Virtue, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), EdChoice (the former Friedman Foundation for EdChoice), and Heritage Action.

The top scorers on the Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card are Florida with the top ranking and Arizona coming in second. Kathryn Joyce publishes comments from public education supporters in both states. In Florida, Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association notes that Florida ranks 45th in the United states in average per-student public school funding. He comments: “In their report, it seems like the states that fund their (public school) students at a higher level have a worse ranking than those who invest less in their children… the Heritage Foundation celebrating the rankings of how well you underfund public schools, how well you dismantle public schools.”

In Arizona, Beth Lewis, director of Save Our Schools Arizona, “which is currently leading a citizen ballot referendum against the state’s new universal ESA Law,” said “The fact that the Heritage Foundation ranks Arizona second in the country, when our (public) schools are funded nearly last in the nation, only underscores the depraved lens with which they view the world… Heritage boasting about realizing Milton Friedman’s dream reveals the agenda—to abolish public schools and put every child on a voucher….”

Ohio is not the only state where politicians are currently being pressed by far right advocates to adopt one of the model ESA bills that are available to anyone who wants one.

States whose legislatures have enacted Education Savings Account vouchers to date include Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Missouri. ESA programs were passed but later found unconstitutional in Nevadaand Kentucky under the provisions of their state constitutions.

For example, for the Wisconsin Examiner, Ruth Conniff reports that education policy has become a huge issue of contention between “Republican candidate Tim Michels, Donald Trump’s choice for governor of Wisconsin, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, the former state schools superintendent, this fall.” Evers has managed to hold off the school privatizers in both houses of Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated state legislature for the past four years. Last week, Conniff explained: “A group of heavy hitters in Wisconsin politics announced Thursday that they are forming a coalition to push for universal school choice and ‘parents’ rights.’ The group, which calls itself the Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom, includes Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, the American Federation for Children, School Choice Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty… Michels and Evers are far apart on a lot of issues, from abortion to immigration to how the state runs elections, but one of the most profound impacts of the Wisconsin governor’s race will be the way it shapes the future of education. Michels’ education blueprint calls for an immediate, statewide expansion of Wisconsin’s school choice program… Michels said, ‘I will introduce universal school choice in my first budget in 2023… Among the other goals of the Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom is a ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ which would encourage lawsuits against school districts that don’t take direction from parents on these issues.”

Conniff concludes: “But beyond these flashy culture-war issues is a steady march toward a privatized education system that is on its way to bankrupting Wisconsin’s once-great public schools.”

More than 100 school districts in Ohio have joined a lawsuit against the state of Ohio opposing vouchers.

Bill Phillis, former deputy superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education, now leads a pro-public school advocacy group called the Ohio Coalition of Equity and Adequacy. He and a new group called “Vouchers Hurt Ohio” have organized the campaign to have the voucher program declared unconstitutional. This is their website.

Bill Phillis posted this description of the lawsuit when it was filed in court in Ohio in early January:

Vouchers Hurt Ohio and Ohio E&A Coalition

File Lawsuit Against Private School Voucher Program

COLUMBUS – A coalition of public school districts filed a lawsuit today in Franklin County Common Pleas court challenging the constitutionality of the rapidly growing private school voucher program that is siphoning away hundreds of millions of dollars from public school students, teachers, classrooms and communities.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice and current Columbus City Schools board member Eric Brown said the lawsuit asks the judicial system a simple, but critical question:

“Where does the Ohio General Assembly get the power to fund private school vouchers? That power is nowhere to be found in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Ohio Constitution forbids it. Lawmakers have the authority and responsibility to fund “a” system of “common schools,” with common standards and resources for all of Ohio’s taxpayers, parents, and students,” Brown said at a press conference today outlining the lawsuit.

“Funding schools that aren’t for everybody is not the business of the Ohio General Assembly, and it is not the responsibility of Ohio taxpayers to pay for these private schools,” Brown said. “The Ohio General Assembly either knows they are violating the Ohio Constitution and doesn’t care or the members who support expanding the private school vouchers need a history lesson themselves.”

William L. Phillis, executive director for the Coalition of Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, was instrumental in leading the successful court challenge to the way Ohio pays for public schools during the ‘90s.

“The DeRolph school funding lawsuit was the case of the 20th century. The EdChoice private school voucher lawsuit we filed today is destined to be the case of the 21st Century,” Phillis said. “In fact, the private school voucher system is siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars from an already underfunded system of public schools. The legislature and the governor are putting our state and our public school children at risk and they admit it.”

Nneka Jackson, a school board member with the Richmond Heights School District in Cuyahoga County, said private school vouchers are making school segregation in Ohio worse, not better.

“If someone tells you this is about helping poor minority children, hook them up to a lie detector test asap and stand back because the sparks are going to fly,” Jackson said.

About 40 percent of Richmond Heights residents are white. Before the EdChoice private school voucher program, about 26 percent of the students in the Richmond Heights School District were white and 74 percent were students of color. Today, after EdChoice, Richmond Heights is three percent white and 97 percent students of color,” Jackson said.

“Private schools are allowed to discriminate, plain and simple, based on disability, disciplinary records, academic standings, religion and financial status. These are often proxies for race and other protected characteristics. Ohio is essentially engaged in state-sponsored discrimination in admissions and retention. You know who can’t do this? Public schools. Common schools,” Jackson said.

Dan Heintz, a school board member in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, said his district lost more than $27 million to private school vouchers, and this forced voters to pass two levies to raise property taxes.

Heintz said 95 percent of our EdChoice voucher users have never been enrolled in one of our schools. 

“So, contrary to the narrative, these families aren’t fleeing a failing school.”The only thing they’re fleeing is a tuition bill. A private school tuition bill that is now being paid by Ohio taxpayers,” Heintz said.

Eric Resnick, a school board member for Canton City Schools in Stark County, said high school students receive a $7,500 voucher while public school students receive far less from the state in basic education funding.

There is no truth to the claim by voucher proponents that “the money follows the student,” Resnick said. “To those who say the money should follow the student, I ask why the discrepancy? Why should voucher students get $7,500 and some public school students get one-fifth or less than that amount? If the money was truly following the student, then each public school student would also receive $7,500.”

The complaint can be read here.

School districts in the Vouchers Hurt Ohio coalition can be found here.

The E&A Coalition is working with Vouchers Hurt Ohio, a growing coalition of public school districts that have come together to sue the state over the unconstitutional and harmful private school voucher program. Vouchers Hurt Ohio now has nearly 100 member school districts in 47 of Ohio’s 88 counties that open their doors wide and welcoming to more than 250,000 public school students.

This is Jan Resseger’s commentary about the lawsuit.

Betsy DeVos is not going away. She is leading a campaign for vouchers in Michigan that is certain to defund public schools. DeVos and her husband Richard DeVos sponsored a voucher referendum in 2000, which voters overwhelmingly rejected by 69-31.

Twenty-two years later, she is promoting a plan that would bypass the Governor and the public. Under Michigan law, the Governor can’t veto it, and the public can’t repeal it. No state referendum has ever gone well for voucher advocates. To avoid Governor Whitmer’s veto and a public referendum, Republicans have designed a plan to bypass both.

Former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an avid and longtime proponent of school choice, headlined a virtual kick-off Wednesday for a GOP-supported ballot measure opponents argue would suck funds out of public schools.

“I trust parents and I believe in students. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a shared value in Lansing,” DeVos told parents and supporters during the “Let MI Kids Learn” Facebook livestream Wednesday morning.

“I’ve been told what many of you have been told over the years: ‘Sit down, go away. This isn’t your role. You’re not the expert, we’re the experts. Leave it to us,’” said DeVos, a former Michigan GOP chair who ran the U.S. Education Department under former President Donald Trump. “Well, I happen to believe that the best expert for a child is that child’s family. … It’s why I believe that we have to change the power structure in education and give students and families more control.”

DeVos joined a panel of pro-school choice parents during the virtual event to launch the Let MI Kids Learn initiative. The ballot initiative was unveiled by Republicans in November to create a school voucher-style system that would use public tax dollars to fund private education.

Opponents argue the plan violates the Michigan Constitution. In 1970, voters passed the Blaine Amendment, which prohibits public money from going to private schools. And opponents to these bills say they violate that constitutional amendment.

The DeVos family already had given the measure $350,000, plus $25,000 from the DeVos-backed Great Lakes Education Project, the Detroit News reports. Other big donors include Get Families Back to Work, which has the same address as the Republican Governors Association, and gave $800,000. The State Government Leadership Fund, an offshoot of the Republican State Leadership Committee, also contributed $475,000.

The initiative came after Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed voucher-style education bills earlier that month that would have given tax credits to Michiganders who contributed to a scholarship program for non-public schools.

But now, since the Let MI Kids Learn ballot drive has been approved by the state Board of Canvassers, supporters — including the powerful right-wing DeVos family — can begin drumming up support and collecting signatures.

If the group successfully collects 340,000 signatures, the GOP-controlled Legislature will be able to vote the petition into law instead of voters deciding in November. Whitmer’s signature is not needed for this to happen, nor can the Democratic governor veto the measure.

“I’m more fired up now than ever. … It’s hard to believe anyone would oppose this opportunity,” DeVos said Wednesday.

Democrats and groups like AFT Michigan — a union which represents 35,000 educators and healthcare providers in schools across the state — oppose the measure and others like it, arguing they redirect public dollars from already-struggling public schools to fund tuition for private educations.

The Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools (MiPASS) also opposes the initiative. Members released a statement Wednesday blasting DeVos for “exploiting the pandemic to push her charter school agenda.”