|March 26, 2013
||State’s High Court Upholds Indiana's Voucher Program
By Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP
The Indiana Supreme Court has
issued a 5-0 ruling upholding the state’s school voucher program. PSRB
Partner Christopher J. Braun and Attorney Josh S. Tatum had filed an amicus
brief in the case on behalf of a group of Christian universities arguing that
the voucher system should be upheld. The court held that eligible students may
use public tax dollars to help pay tuition at non-public schools, including
religiously-affiliated schools, without violating Indiana's Constitution.
Vouchers allow low income
families to utilize tax dollars from their local public school district to pay
tuition when their children transfer to private schools. A lawsuit was filed in
2011 after opponents said the program was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ challenges based on three
constitutional provisions. First, the voucher program does not detract from the
state’s obligation to provide for a uniform system of common schools as
required by Article 8, Section 1. Second, the court's opinion says the voucher program’s allowing
students and their parents to use tax dollars to help pay tuition at a
religious school of their choosing does not violate Article 1, Section 4’s
prohibition that "no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or
support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his
consent." Finally, allowing religious schools to receive those scholarships
does not violate Article 1, Section 6’s prohibition against drawing money from
the treasury “for the benefit of any religious or theological
PSRB’s amicus brief provided the court with analysis of
long-standing scholarship assistance Indiana has provided for college students,
including those attending religious schools. These programs have been in
existence for decades without challenge, but are structured very similarly to
the K–12 program upheld by the court.
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