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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 institution."

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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